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The edge of dominance, p.9
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.9

         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black

  “I could have driven myself,” Raine pointed out. “I have a standing appointment and I always manage to find my way.”


  She sighed. “It’s just a massage.”

  “It’s also not a negotiation. I had to pick a few things up at the grocery store anyway. So I’m driving you.”

  Who did he think he was fooling? “Name one time you’ve done your own grocery shopping in the last six years.”

  As Hammer breezed through a yellow light, he sent her a warning glower and gripped the wheel tighter.

  “Be reasonable. River isn’t going to snatch me away. If he shows up, I promised I’d have nothing to do with him. Don’t you trust me?”

  “It’s him I don’t trust.”

  “I get that, but you haven’t let me out of your sight in four days.”

  “I’m letting you spend an hour away now, aren’t I?” he snapped as he turned right into the parking lot.

  She held in a groan, reminding herself that Hammer was simply afraid for her. “I can protect myself. Bill came out of that fight in far worse shape than I did.”

  He sent her a stern glower. “Don’t remind me about that day.”

  “I don’t have to. Neither you nor Liam are trying to forget. It’s hard for me, too. But you’ve got to lighten up. Nothing is going to happen in a public place with the massage therapist the obstetrician recommended. Gloria is great.”

  Hammer’s nostrils flared. Raine knew that look. She might as well be talking to a cement wall.

  “First of all, you shouldn’t have to protect yourself. That’s a responsibility Liam and I take very seriously. Second, no one knows what could happen, and we’re not eager to take any chances. Call me a hard-ass if you want, but either I’m driving you to and from this appointment or we’re cancelling.”

  Do you want to watch Gloria work out the knots in my muscles, too? The sarcasm perched on the tip of her tongue, but Raine bit it back. Hammer might actually take her up on that offer.

  “Seriously, River hasn’t been back since last weekend. He forgot that I existed for twelve years. For all we know, he’s decided I’m worthless because I’m a knocked-up slut or whatever, and he’s written me off again. Fine. His loss. I don’t need him.”

  “I told you, he’s not giving up.” Hammer pressed his mouth into a severe line as he pulled up to the curb in front of the spa. “That much I know.”

  The fit couple Raine always saw heading into the fitness studio before her late morning appointment caught her eye as they ducked in next door for their session. Their burly personal trainer greeted them with a wave.

  “I have to go or I’ll be late. We’ll talk about this later,” she promised and kissed his cheek.

  He sent her a steely warning. “Yes. In an hour, when you’re over my knee and you remember you’re not the one giving the orders.”

  Hammer hadn’t touched her since Saturday morning’s debacle, and they hadn’t had sex in weeks. He’d been particularly edgy since she’d freaked out about his ropes. She still felt terrible about that. Hammer and Liam were Doms; they might worry she no longer trusted them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now that she knew being restrained triggered dark memories, she would mentally steel herself so she wouldn’t lose her shit again—hopefully.

  Raine worried this would come between them. Hammer craved having complete control, and if she couldn’t give it, would he lose interest?

  She opened the car door. “We both know you won’t do that.”

  Once he would have, but now…

  Hammer snagged her arm. His hazel eyes flashed a darker warning. “That’s where you’re wrong. Would you like me to hold you down now to make my point, precious? Either way, I’ll be giving you a rosy ass before the sun goes down. Then count on Liam and me keeping that insolent mouth of yours busy all night.”

  Desire flipped in her chest, pulsed between her legs. Raine wanted the passion Hammer’s words promised.

  She knew a surefire way to get it. Hammer couldn’t resist the urge to tame a brat.

  She jerked from his grasp and lunged out of the car, then bent to stare at him through the open door. “Why do you need my mouth? Is your fist too busy for another workout? See you in an hour.”

  With a thunderous expression, Hammer jerked off his seat belt. Raine smothered a nervous laugh as she slammed the passenger door and darted into the cool spa, pungent with incense. Bamboo chimes piped softly overhead. The waiting receptionist frowned as she stared out the glass door. Raine didn’t turn to look, because she knew the bear she’d baited charged her way. He should have some pent-up frustration to work off when her massage was over.

  The thought made her almost giddy.

  “You don’t have to show me back. I know Gloria’s room number. Thanks.”

  Raine hustled to the back of the spa before Hammer could barge in. After she used the facilities, she hurried to room number five. Inside, she breathed a sigh of relief as she set her purse on the counter. “I’m safe—at least for now. Not even Hammer would dare to follow me in here.”

  At least she didn’t think so.

  Behind her, the door shut suddenly. Raine whirled. A big body stepped from the shadows and into the dim light of the massage room. Raine knew those blue eyes.

  “So I was right, you are afraid of him?”

  She gaped in shock. “Oh, my god… River! What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you in forever.”

  “I learned your schedule.” He took her shoulders and searched her face intently. “Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on.”

  Frowning, Raine tilted her head way up to meet his gaze. He’d grown since adolescence, now standing somewhere around six foot five. He’d filled out his once-gawky body with pure muscle. He looked hard and dangerous and immovable. She didn’t want to be afraid of him, but unease twisted her stomach.

  She tried to shrug free from his touch. “You need to leave. I promised Liam and Hammer I wouldn’t talk to you.”

  “And you do everything they tell you to, don’t you?” He muttered a curse. “What will they do if you disobey?”

  Spank her. Maybe fuck her within an inch of her life, but she’d like that. She’d missed being with them both.

  Best not to say that to her brother. He was already agitated.

  She stepped away nervously. “N-nothing. I’m surprised you—”

  “Don’t lie to protect those fucking deviants.”

  Until now, River had sounded almost normal. But maybe Hammer and Liam had been right about her brother being crazy.

  “You shouldn’t be here. Where’s Gloria?” Raine glanced hopefully toward the door. Maybe the therapist would show up to defuse this situation…or get help.

  “Out with a cold. I paid the receptionist not to call you.” River gripped her shoulders tighter. “I had to separate you from those two animals. Raine, I’ll get you to safety.”

  “Safety?” She shook her head. “I’m fine. Better than fine. Where have you been all these years?”

  “The army. I spent a lot of time in Afghanistan. I’ve only been back Stateside for a couple of months.”

  And he hadn’t reached out to her once until he disapproved of her life. Had time and war toughened all the sanity and goodness out of the brother she remembered?

  “Don’t change the subject,” he growled. “I won’t let you be a cock slave to those two assholes anymore.”

  “Cock slave? Assholes?” Raine shoved at his chest. “You’ve got everything wrong. What we have may not look like a conventional relationship, but who the hell are you to pass judgment?”

  River didn’t give her any room to breathe. “The only fucking family you have left.”

  “You walked out twelve years ago and didn’t look back. So you don’t get any say in my life now.”

  “I left because I had to. But I’m back and I’m not a screwed-up teenager anymore.”

  No, he just sounded like a sanctimonious prick.

sp; “Let go,” she demanded.

  “Those two have hurt you.” Something bleak settled in his expression. “Storm cloud, I can’t let that stand.”

  No one had called her that pet name in…well, since River. It softened her a bit.

  “Really, you just don’t know them. They’re wonderful to me and—”

  “Do you even know which one of them fucking got you pregnant?” He pointed at her belly, looking furious. When she didn’t answer, his face hardened. “That’s what I thought. Come with me. I’ll get that taken care of. We’ll get your life back on track. I have money.”

  Get that taken care of, as in…abortion?

  “No!” Raine struggled to dislodge his grip. “God no! If you’re not going to listen, leave me alone.”

  “Listen to what? All the crap they’ve brainwashed you to say? I won’t let them force-feed you any more of their Kool-Aid. You don’t have to give birth to this product of rape. I’ll take care of everything. You’ll have other kids someday—with the right guy.”

  “Rape? They’ve never…” Horror scalded her. “Ever. Get away. You’re not touching my baby! Or me.”

  “The procedure won’t hurt,” he promised as if physical pain was her primary concern. “Come with me. We have almost an hour before Hammerman and O’Neill know you’re missing. I’ll have you far away from them by nightfall.”

  He was serious and he had a plan. Fear screeched inside her.

  “If I needed protecting from anyone, it was Bill. But you weren’t there to save me or Rowan.” She shook her head and tugged harder against his grip. “No. I want this baby. I love Liam and Hammer. They’ve given me everything and made me so happy.”

  “Being used and abused? How have they convinced you that’s happiness?” His eyes narrowed as anger filled his big body. “You just don’t know any better. Do they tag team you? Does one hold you down while the other rapes you? You’re such a little thing, storm cloud. Do they get their kicks overpowering you? Do you call that love?”

  “What the hell are you—”

  “They probably shove their dicks into you at the same time and… Fuck. Just the thought makes me angry and sick.” He shuddered as if he had to shove down his rage. “That terrible part of your life is over. You’re coming with me, and once you see what vile scum they really are, you’ll thank me.”

  Raine wrenched against his hold now. She couldn’t fight him off physically, and as far as she knew, no one else was in the spa except the receptionist, who had sold her out. She had to talk her way out of this.

  “I’m not fucking going anywhere with you.”

  “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. I don’t think less of you. I’ll have to kill those two freaks, but—”

  “They’re not freaks. I’m not brainwashed. I’m in love! Will you shut up and listen?”

  His face filled with pity. “We’ve already wasted ten minutes. I’m getting you out of here.”

  River tugged her toward the door. Raine dug in her heels, but he was so damn big and strong.

  “Stop! No, you can’t do this… You’re totally misunderstanding the situation.”

  “Let them prove it to me. Until then, my priority is your safety.”

  Raine didn’t like the resolve on his face. She opened her mouth to scream, but he spun her around, dragged her back against his chest, and planted his hand over her mouth in one quick move. Barely a moment later, he lifted her off her feet and hauled her out of the room.

  Panic iced her veins. She struggled, kicked, grunted, even tried to elbow him. His abs were hard as stone, and her blows bounced right off him.

  He was definitely stronger than their father had been. If River managed to drag her off, she could only imagine how difficult he would be to escape. Granted, he wasn’t plotting to rape and kill her. At least he hadn’t sounded like that sort of lunatic. No matter what, she could not let him haul her away and rip her child from her womb. What that would do to Hammer and Liam was unthinkable.

  Raine wrestled hard for freedom. River simply clamped his arms around her more tightly and headed down the hall, toward the exit at the back.

  Someone had already propped the door open. Her brother didn’t look surprised, merely put his shoulder into it and burst out into the sunlight.

  Ten feet away, she spied a black truck with dark-tinted windows. He pinned her under one beefy arm and worked a hand into his pocket. A moment later, a beep and the flash of headlights told her the vehicle belonged to him.

  River was planning to toss her in it.

  Sheer terror flashed through her system, roared in her ears. She broke out in a sweat. Her heart chugged so hard it hurt. She couldn’t breathe.

  This is really happening.

  No. No. No!

  She redoubled her efforts, kicking his shins, pummeling his middle with one punishing elbow after another. She screamed again, cursing the fact that his hand muffled the sound. God, how was she going to stop him?

  “Stop fighting me. It’ll be over soon.”

  What the hell did that mean? Why did this shit always happen to her?

  Never fucking again. She refused to be anyone’s victim.

  Raine bit down on his finger until she tasted blood while blasting her heel back into his knee.

  He dropped her with a curse and an incredulous glare, sucking his offended finger into his mouth. “Goddamn it!”

  She didn’t stay long enough to discern the consequences. Instead, Raine turned and ran for the open door to the spa. If she could get through it, kick away the block of wood propping it open, then slam the portal behind her, it would lock automatically. She could be out the front again, maybe hiding somewhere River wouldn’t find her until Hammer returned. Anything that would get her away from her crazy brother.

  She had barely taken two steps toward freedom when River grabbed a handful of her T-shirt and hauled her back against him.

  “Hey,” a man to her right called. “What the hell is going on? Let her go.”

  Raine turned to the voice. One of the trainers who worked at the fitness studio next door. Big and bulky, the bodybuilder looked like her brother’s match in size and strength.

  “Help me!”

  When the guy sprinted headlong toward them, River set her behind him. “She’s my sister. Butt out.”

  “She obviously doesn’t want to be in your company. Back off.” The good Samaritan glanced her way. “Go inside and call the police. I’ll hold him here until they arrive.”

  “Thank you so much.” She didn’t dare linger any more, so she dashed back to the spa.

  “I’m not giving up on you,” River called after her.

  Chills shot up her spine, but Raine didn’t stop, just kicked the doorstop aside and wrenched the portal shut behind her. When she heard it lock, she dragged in a relieved breath. Her hands trembled when she swiped at the tears running down her face, grabbed her purse, and dashed into the reception area. Only the bitch behind the counter who wouldn’t help her sat there, acting like she didn’t exist.

  But outside the glass door, Raine spotted the most reassuring sight of all.

  Hammer leaned against his Audi, waiting on her. When she launched herself outside, she didn’t have to say a word. The moment he zeroed in on her, concern charged across his face. She ran for him as if she couldn’t reach him quickly enough. He ate up the ground between them. As she fell into his arms, he caught her in a tight, protective embrace, then drank in her sobs and held her so close.

  * * *

  Afternoon sunlight blazed into the living room through the
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