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Please Me: A Stark Ever After Novella, Page 3

J. Kenner

  All in all, it’s a perfect day, marred only by my lingering fears that won’t dissolve no matter how much I try and will them to.

  Later, Jamie does the honor of reading to Lara. Her favorite is still Good Night, Sleep Tight, Little Bunnies, and both Damien and I have it memorized. As Jamie takes care of my oldest, I read Goodnight, Gorilla to Anne and then settle her into her crib. I linger, watching her sweet face as she drifts off to sleep, grateful that I have such easy kids. Not that there aren’t tears and crankiness, but today was a tantrum-free day.

  And hallelujah for that.

  Jamie and I meet up again on the patio, and I keep my phone open to the monitoring app as we settle down for more snacking and chatting. I feel like a teenager at a slumber party again, although that illusion fades when Jamie yawns deeply, then stands up and announces that she’s going to bed. Jamie never crashed when we were teens. She would have considered it a red mark of failure.

  When I remind her of this, she just shrugs and shoots me an impish grin. “Yeah, but the reason I’m tired now is that last night Ryan and I fucked like bunnies, and I didn’t get any sleep at all, what with all that goodbye sex.”

  “Right,” I say dryly. “I should have known.”

  “Coming in?”

  I take another sip of my wine and shake my head. “You go on. I’m going to stay out here and watch the stars a bit longer.” I glance once again at my phone, just as I’ve been doing all evening, but there are no emails or texts from Damien.

  “The longer he works, the less stressed he’ll be about playing hooky tomorrow,” Jamie says sagely.

  I nod, knowing she’s right but still wishing Damien was home with me.

  “Night, Nicholas,” she says.

  “Night, James,” I return, answering in kind with our childhood nicknames for each other.

  She heads back inside for the guest suite, and I look up at the sky, smiling when I see a shooting star streak across the moonless night. Once again, I crave Damien beside me, but this time when I turn to my phone, I hear a rustling come over the speaker. The video component of the monitor isn’t working—I’d meant to fix it today and forgot—but it doesn’t matter. Either our cat, Sunshine, is settling in at the foot of the bed, or Lara has kicked her blanket off.

  Since it’s time for me to head up to bed anyway, I get up, then return to our third floor bedroom. We’ve converted the guest room behind it to the girls’ room, and about a month ago we moved Anne’s crib from the master to the room she shares with her sister. That’s where I go now, wanting to check on the girls and the cat before climbing into bed, certain that the sooner I sleep, the sooner Damien will be beside me.

  Except he’s already here.

  I freeze in the doorway, afraid that he’s heard me. More afraid that my eyes are playing tricks on me. But it’s Damien. He’s sitting in the rocking chair, illuminated by the soft glow of the nightlight, his midnight black hair gleaming. He’s holding Lara in his arms, his hands cupping her sleeping head. And though he’s facing the window, I can see most of him. And I know his face well enough to recognize his expression. Pain. Sadness. Maybe even desperation.

  My heart hitches, and I gasp, the noise overly loud in the otherwise silent room.

  I lift my fingers to my mouth, as if that will call back the sound, but it’s too late. Damien looks up, and though the pain still lingers on his face, his dual-colored eyes reflect so much love and tenderness that I have to reach out for the doorframe to steady myself.

  Slowly, his mouth curves into a smile that fills me up, erasing the sadness on his gorgeous features. He holds out his hand, and I go to him, craving his touch. The reassurance that all is well.

  But as I walk toward my husband, this man I love with all my heart, I glimpse the lingering shadows in his eyes, and I can’t shake the cold blanket of fear that settles over my shoulders when I slide my hand into Damien’s.

  Chapter Three

  After we tuck Lara back into bed, Damien and I walk in silence to our bedroom. As soon as I close the door behind us, I expect him to speak. But he says nothing. Just sits in the armchair by the window and loosens his tie.

  I go to him, then kneel at his feet, my hands on his thighs. “Damien,” I whisper. “Please.”

  The corner of his mouth curves up. “Anything, baby. You know that.”

  But I don’t know it. Not really. Because I’ve asked him to tell me what’s wrong, and he’s remained silent. But that’s what I need. That’s what will make me whole—getting into his head. Understanding him.

  Most of all, helping him.

  “Damien,” I whisper as I look into those eyes that have seen all the way into my soul. “Please. Please tell me what’s wrong.”

  An infinity passes between us in the space of a breath, then a small, sad smile touches his lips. “Everything is fine, Nikki. I promise.”

  Anger boils in me, as hot as wildfire and at least as destructive. I want to scream at him that I know something is off. I want to yell that I can practically smell the secrets. I want to beg him to tell me. Because doesn’t he understand how much his silence hurts?

  I say none of that, though. Instead, I press down on his thighs as I lever myself back up.


  “I need to check on Anne.” My voice is sharp, my words nothing more than an excuse to leave. Because if I stay, I’m going to sink to the ground and beg. But I don’t want to beg. I want him to tell me. To keep his promise that there would be no more secrets between us.

  In the girls’ room, I peek in on Anne, sleeping peacefully in her crib with Blankie. Then I pick Kitty up from beside Lara’s bed and tuck the little guy next to her. Immediately, her arm goes around her bedraggled lovey.

  I close the door behind me, intending to return to the bedroom. Instead, I go outside. I pour another glass from the second bottle Jamie and I opened, then settle onto the chaise lounge and look up, letting myself get lost in the stars that blanket the moonless sky.

  I don’t hear him, but I know when Damien steps onto the patio. The scent of him. The subtle shift in the air, as if Damien Stark truly is the force of nature I sometimes believe him to be. Mostly, though, I am simply attuned to him, and he to me. Of course, I know he’s there. Just as I knew that he would come.

  I turn my head and let myself breathe him in, this man the gods must have made just for me. He’s strong and powerful and walks with confidence. His strides are long and straight, and his goal is clear—me.

  When he reaches my chaise, he sits on the edge of it near my hip, then takes my hand in his. I’m still wearing the bathing suit I put on to lounge with Jamie, covered by a simple, lacey pull-over. It eased up when I sat, and now Damien’s slacks brush the bare skin of my thigh, making me hyperaware of our connection.

  Damien lifts our joined hands, then kisses my knuckles. “Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”

  My eyes dart to his, and I see both apology and humor reflected on his face. “I think that’s my line,” I say.

  Slowly, he slips his hand beneath the lace of my cover-up so that his palm presses against the bare flesh of my lower abdomen, just above my bikini line. The touch is casual, little more than a place to rest his hand, and yet the contact sends sparks shooting down through my core, making my inner thighs tingle and my sex burn hot and needy.

  I bite my lower lip and focus on my husband’s face, not his touch. “Damien,” I say, my voice raw with both frustration and need. “Please talk to me.”

  “It’s work,” he says. He’s still holding my hand, and he releases it now to run his fingers through his hair. “Just some massive fuckery going on, and I’m trying hard not to bring that shit home.”

  I almost tell him that the frustration that flows off him in waves pretty much defeats his good intentions, but I stay silent. The truth is that I really do understand. Or, at least, I think I do. He’s been working on an acquisition of a medical tech company for months. The deal recently went sour when the C
EO turned out to be an asshole of the #metoo variety, and Damien started getting flack in the press about the fact that the deal would line the asshole’s pockets.

  So I understand why he’s frustrated, but in the grand scheme of Stark International, walking away from one acquisition is a minor stumbling block. And that’s why I think that something else went sideways with the deal. Something he’s not sharing with me.

  I lick my lips. “I love you so damn much,” I say. “But Damien, I …”

  I draw a breath and try again. “You promised me no more secrets.”

  He reaches out and cups my cheek. “Baby, I know.”

  I swallow. Because knowing isn’t the same as telling. And I’m about to say so when he draws a breath, then speaks. “Nikki, I—”

  The pain in his voice is palpable, and I cover his hand on my cheek with my own. My heart pounds against my ribcage as I wait for him to tell me what troubles him.

  For a moment, silence lingers. Then he says, very simply, “I just need you.”

  My chest tightens, and I want to scream that he can tell me. Whatever it is, doesn’t he know that by now? With everything we’ve been through together? Everything we’ve shared with each other? How can he not understand?

  But I say none of that. On the contrary, it’s myself who gets the stern lecture. Because no matter what, I don’t doubt that Damien loves me, and that’s really our bottom line. Whatever it is that’s going on, he’s obviously not ready to tell me. I might not like it, but I can accept it. Begrudgingly, yes. But I can.

  And the truth is, it’s not his secret that’s bothering me so much as his pain. Because I can see that he’s suffering, and it hurts that he hasn’t come to me for help.

  Except he has.

  That’s why he’s beside me. That’s why he said that he needs me.

  Tears clog my throat as I process that simple reality. “You have me, Damien. No matter what. You know that, right?”

  “I do,” he says. “And I’m thankful every damn day. Because God knows I don’t deserve what we have.”

  “Yes,” I say. “You do.” I let go of him, then stand up. “We both do,” I say as I lift the cover-up over my head, then let it fall to the deck. I reach back and untie my bikini top where it fastens at my back and neck. It pools near my feet as I watch Damien’s eyes and the knowing heat that is building there.

  Then I take my hand and slip it into my suit bottom, touching myself as he watches, his head cocked a little to the side, his expression hungry. “Don’t make me do this alone,” I tease.

  “Then take them off,” he says, and I comply eagerly, using my thumbs to help me wriggle out until I’m naked on the patio, my body singing with awareness and desire.

  “Jamie’s here?”

  “She’s down for the count,” I say. “We polished off a lot of wine, and she and Ryan were up all last night. It’s just us.”

  “Good.” He stands, still in his suit, the tie loosely knotted around his neck. He doesn’t make a move to undress. Instead, he looks me slowly up and down, his gaze hot and possessive. I can see the bulge of his erection against his tailored Savile Row slacks, and the anticipation of what’s to come makes my core clench with need.

  “Damien,” I whisper, simply for the pleasure of his name on my lips.

  His mouth curves into a grin, erasing the lingering shadows from his face. And the knowledge that I did that sends a fresh rush of desire through me. I feel the tightening in my breasts, the hardening of my nipples. My pulse pounds between my legs, and my clit begs for attention.

  “Yes, Ms. Fairchild?”

  I can barely conjure my voice. “You say you need me. Tell me how.”

  “So many ways, my love.” He takes a step toward me, then dips his gaze back down to the chaise as he pulls his tie out of his collar. “But right now, I need you on your back.”

  I lift a brow, then look pointedly at his erection. “You wouldn’t rather have me on my knees?”

  “Do I have to spank that pretty little ass?” His tone is stern. “On your back, baby. Arms above your head. Legs spread wide.”

  His words dance over me, making me tremble, and I comply eagerly. I straddle the chaise so that my legs hang over the sides, my toes on the flagstones. I lie back, the cushion covers cool against my bare back.

  “Arms up,” he says, as if I’d forgotten. “And your wrists crossed.”

  I do as he says, and he stands beside me holding the tie. Then he bends over me and expertly weaves it around my wrists, binding them together. Next, he loops the loose end to the frame of the chaise, then knots it, effectively binding me in place.

  Out of reflex, I tug on the bond, testing its strength, but I’m not going anywhere. “Damien,” I murmur as he moves to the foot of the chaise, then starts to take off his belt.

  I assume that he’s undressing, too, but I’m wrong about that. On the contrary, he’s using his belt to bind one of my legs to the chaise, threading it through the frame, and then tightening it around my thigh. “For me to tie you at the ankle, you’d have to bring your legs together a bit,” he explains. “And I like you spread open for me.”

  My mouth goes dry, but that’s the only part of me that does. Because I can’t deny that I like it too. I’m so wide, my legs are practically in splits. I had to get that way so that I could straddle the chaise. Now I’m completely exposed. And I’m incredibly wet.

  Since there’s nothing left to restrain me with, I assume he’s going to order me to keep the other leg in place, but instead he reaches down, then rises with my bikini top, which he efficiently uses to bind me to the frame.

  Now I’m exposed and helpless, and from the slow smile crossing Damien’s still-haunted face, I can tell that’s just the way he wants me. It’s the way I want me, too. Anything to chase away those demons. Anything he needs, any time he needs it.

  He knows that, of course. Knows that I’m his. Fully. Completely. Every minute of every day. And he is mine, too.

  Which is why I don’t understand why he hasn’t confided in me. But it’s also why I’m confident that he will when he’s ready.

  And, to be honest, I’m rapidly starting to not give a damn, because now I’m too preoccupied with the light touch of his fingertips along my calf as he trails slowly upward, his touch so light it could be the wind.

  Higher and higher, his fingers dance along my inner thigh, skimming around and over the deep, angry scars that I used to be so ashamed of, but now rarely think about. Not with Damien. With Damien, I just want more, and now I whimper because he’s coming so close, intentionally driving me crazy, and doing a damn good job of it.

  “Damien.” There’s a plea in my voice, and I hear his low, smug chuckle.

  “Trouble, Ms. Fairchild?”

  “Please,” I beg. “Touch me.”

  “I am touching you,” he says as his fingers trail up the V of my pubic bone, then slowly stroke my lower abdomen and my pubis, never dipping lower despite the fact that my hips are rising and falling in a silent, desperate plea.

  “I like that,” he says. “That you want it. That you’re ready. Tell me, baby. What do you want?”

  “You,” I say. “Always you.”

  “Tell me,” he orders, his fingertip tracing the line of my C-section scar.

  “Your fingers inside me,” I say as those same fingers graze higher, teasing a pattern just below my breasts. “Your cock,” I whisper. “All of you.”

  “Patience, sweetheart.”

  But I’m not patient. I’m hot and I’m needy, my skin prickling with desire, my sex clenching in silent demand, my nipples tight, and my breasts heavy.

  “You’re so fucking beautiful.” I hear the awe in his voice and it humbles me. Then his fingers pinch my breasts, and I arch up as hot threads shoot through my body, connecting my breasts to my sex, and oh, dear God, I just want.


  I think I say his name out loud, but soon realize I didn’t. He knows, though, and as I writhe again
st my bonds—wanting the friction against my skin, needing to release some of the pressure building inside me—he bends close so that his lips hover over mine, so that we’re sharing breath, and then he whispers, “Do you want me to kiss you?”

  “Yes. Oh, yes.”

  I see the smile bloom behind the heat in his eyes. “Then I will.”

  I close my eyes, anticipating the feel of his lips on mine. But that’s not what I get. Instead, he moves between my legs, then slowly dances kisses up my inner thigh before drawing the tip of his tongue along the soft skin between my thigh and my sex. I moan, lost in the sensation of Damien’s lips, his tongue, his breath.

  His hands slide up my body as he laves my sex. First caressing the curve of my waist, then easing higher, his large hands spread over me, then cup my breasts, his fingers finding my nipples right as his mouth finds my clit. And then he’s tugging and sucking, and sparks shoot along my body, cutting a path from my breast to my core.

  I squirm, wanting more. Wanting escape. Because it’s too much. The intensity. The pleasure bordering on pain, and just when I think I can’t survive another second, he flicks the tip of his tongue over my clit one more time, and the world explodes around me.

  I cry out, twisting and turning in my bonds, trying to bring my thighs together, to shake off Damien’s hand that now cups me, but I can’t. I can’t.

  And all I can do is ride the wave, gasping, all the way to the stars and back.

  When the world finally settles again, I’m limp. A thin layer of sweat covers me, and I’m tingling in the cool night air.

  “Holy hell,” I say. “Damien. That was … wow.”

  “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” There’s truth in his voice, but a tease in his tone. “So did I. Very much.”