Burn, p.17
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       Burn, p.17

         Part #3 of Breathless series by Maya Banks
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  “Josie, you’re overthinking this,” Ash chided softly. “This is why I would have never had you know about this. No good can come of you worrying or stressing over this. And if this brings us into question for you, then I can only tell you that I’ve been honest with you. I’ve been straightforward. Never tried to hide the kind of man I am from you. And I told you from the start that we do things my way. You’re mine to protect. To care for. I can guarantee you that nothing like this will ever touch you. Don’t want you thinking about it. Can you do that for me?”

  She sucked in a deep breath as Ash watched her intently, waiting for her response. This was huge. He was basically asking her if she could get over it and move on. That she not freak out about this. That she trust him. Those were big things to ask. She’d assumed he was a businessman. A wealthy, powerful businessman. She’d never imagined for one minute that he was immersed in gray, murky areas or that he would even be capable of meting out violence to someone who’d hurt something he considered his own.

  It shouldn’t surprise her, and maybe that was what she grappled with. The idea that maybe it hadn’t been as shocking to her as it should have been. It would explain why she was trying to muster up outrage. Or all the appropriate responses. Because she wasn’t feeling them and she thought she should be.

  “Josie?” Ash questioned quietly. “I need an answer from you, baby.”

  “Yes,” she finally said. “I can do that for you, Ash.”

  He gathered her in his arms and pressed his lips to her forehead. She closed her eyes, melting into his embrace.

  “It scares me, Ash. Not for the reasons you might think, and maybe I feel guilty over that. But what scares me isn’t that you’re this person who went out and beat the crap out of someone. I don’t worry that you’re capable of hurting me that way. But what scares me is the thought of losing you. Of you going to jail because you were protecting me. I don’t want that. I never want that.”

  He smiled and lowered his mouth, kissing her lips.

  “Don’t worry about me, darling. I’ve got it covered. I didn’t just go out on a whim and kick his ass. And I don’t say this to freak you out, but I don’t want you to worry about it anymore. After tonight, we don’t talk about it. We don’t bring it up. But I carried out a well-thought-out plan. I have an alibi and Michael was warned of the consequences of him ever coming near you and also of him going to the police. I don’t think we’ll have an issue with either. I made my point pretty clear.”

  She pressed her forehead to his chest, the top of her head brushing the underside of his chin.

  “Okay,” she whispered. “I won’t worry and we won’t talk about it again.”

  He squeezed her to him. “Thank you, baby. For trusting me. I won’t let you down. Now let’s go back inside and finish dessert. You have a girls’ night out to plan and you and I have a dress and shoes to buy for you.”

  chapter twenty-one

  Josie walked ahead of Ash when the elevator opened into his apartment. The ride home had been quiet. They’d eaten dessert, conversed casually with Ash’s friends and then Ash had made their excuses and he and Josie had left. She knew Ash watched her, was gauging her mood and her reaction to the issue with Michael.

  What could she say? That she felt more shamed by the fact she wasn’t outraged over what Ash had done than she was with the fact he’d exacted revenge on the man who’d hurt her?

  She didn’t want to think about the type of human being that made her. Or perhaps it just made her human. She hated Michael for what he’d done. Hated the fact that he’d made her doubt herself. That she’d been too shocked, ashamed and afraid to file charges against him. She also hated the fact that if she’d done what she should have, Ash would have never had to have involved himself in the mess. She could hardly blame him when her own inactivity contributed.

  “Lot on your mind, baby,” Ash observed as they stopped in the living room.

  She turned to him, attempting a reassuring smile. “I’m good, Ash. Really. I don’t want you to worry that I’m upset with you. Or angry. I’m mad at myself, but not you.”

  His brow lifted and his gaze sharpened. “Why the hell are you angry with yourself?”

  She sighed, and then he wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her toward the couch. He sat and tugged her down onto his lap, a position she was becoming all too accustomed to.

  She loved that he wanted no distance between them. Loved that he felt the need to touch her often. That he wanted her close whenever they discussed an issue. She drew great comfort from that fact.

  It was pretty damn hard to fear anything when she was surrounded by Ash. She knew, just as he’d done with Michael, that he’d protect her from anything that could possibly hurt her.

  “Josie,” he prompted. “Waiting, baby.”

  “If I’d had the guts to do what I was supposed to do, you would have never had to risk yourself the way you did by going after Michael,” she said with an unhappy frown.

  He put his fingers to her lips, his gaze fierce. He looked . . . pissed.

  “That’s bullshit,” he bit out. “I would have still kicked his fucking ass. And in a lot of ways, my method of dealing with him is far more effective than if you’d had him arrested. He probably would have gotten out with a slap on the wrist, if that. And if you’d wanted to pursue anything further, it would have been hell on you. And there’s no telling the lengths he would have gone to in order to discourage you from seeking punishment for him. This way—my way—he’s scared shitless, and furthermore, he now knows what it feels like for someone to beat the shit out of him. I don’t anticipate him ever being a problem for you again. Did he say anything to you when you saw him today? You never said.”

  She shook her head. “No. He looked . . . scared.”

  Triumph gleamed in Ash’s eyes. “Good,” he said fiercely. “So he said nothing? Did he look at you?”

  “I ran into him, or rather he nearly ran into me when I was waiting outside the ladies’ restroom for Mia and Bethany. He came out of the men’s restroom and I gasped when I saw him. He looked . . . horrible!”

  “Good,” Ash muttered again.

  “I asked him what happened but he never said a word. He acted like he couldn’t get away from me fast enough.”

  Ash smirked. “Guess my message got through then.”

  “Yeah, I guess it did,” she murmured.

  He stroked his hand through her hair and then pressed a kiss to her temple. “It still bothering you?”

  “No,” she whispered. “I think it bothers me more because it doesn’t bother me. I know that makes no sense, but I feel guilty. I feel like a horrible person for not being appalled over what happened to him.”

  He kissed her again, leaving his lips pressed against her head. “You not feeling guilty over that scumbag getting what he deserves doesn’t make you a bad person. He’s an asshole, Josie. Think about the fact that not only will he not hurt you again, but he won’t hurt any other woman. Having him arrested doesn’t guarantee that. Me kicking his ass and threatening to ruin him if he ever so much as touches another woman wrong does.”

  She wrinkled her nose. “I’ll get over it. He did deserve it. I almost wish I’d been there so I could hit him in the nuts just once.”

  Ash chuckled. “I got in plenty for you, baby. Don’t ever want you involved in that kind of shit. Want you to shine. Not be dragged in the shadows with me.”

  “Sticking up for me doesn’t mean you live in shadows, Ash. It means a lot that you’d risk so much. For me.”

  “Bet on that,” he said in a low, serious tone. “Don’t ever question it. Whatever you need, whatever you want, is yours. Never have to ask.”

  She leaned up to kiss him. “In that case, make love to me, Ash. That’s what I really need and what I really want right now.”

  “That, you definitely never have to ask for,” he growled against her mouth.

  He shifted upward, leaned her forward before rising and li
fting her into his arms. He carried her to the bedroom and gently, reverently laid her on the bed.

  “Don’t know what you have in mind tonight, baby, but what I want to give you is the sweet. You’ve had the pain. Don’t want you thinking about pain tonight, not when you just saw the bastard who inflicted it on you. So tonight, I’m going to give you the sweet. Going to make love to you so you not only know how I feel about you, but you’ll feel it too.”

  God, but she loved this man, and it grew increasingly harder not to let those words slip out. How easy it would be to tell him, but she wanted it at the right moment. Right now she wasn’t sure what the right moment would be. But she didn’t want him to think they were just words said in the heat of the moment. She wanted him to know with absolute certainty that she meant them and that they came from her heart.

  He leaned down, fusing his mouth hotly to hers. Their tongues met and slid sensuously over one another. Rough then soft. Hot, damp, electric.

  He wanted to show her, but she also wanted to show him. Wanted to make love to him. Let him feel what he meant to her.

  She braced her palms on his shoulders and then slid them up to the column of his neck. She pulled him lower, meeting his tongue with hers, tangling them breathlessly. She tasted him. Wanted more.

  Her fingers trailed down his shirt, tugging impatiently. “I want you naked,” she complained.

  He chuckled, the sound vibrating over her mouth. “I want you naked too. What do you say we both do something about that?”

  “Race you,” she challenged, a broad grin attacking her lips.

  “Oh hell no,” he said with a laugh when she rolled, tearing at her clothing. “Cheating little wench.”

  She laughed, yanking at her clothing while Ash ripped at his. She kicked the clothing away and stood by the bed, palms upturned as she smirked at him.

  “Took you long enough,” she taunted when he kicked away his pants.

  He yanked her to him, hauling her into his arms. She landed with a thump against his chest.

  “If you think that took a long time, wait to see how long it takes me to get you off,” he said in a silky voice.

  “You wouldn’t,” she breathed out.

  He cocked an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t I?”

  “You said you weren’t into punishments,” she pointed out.

  “Who said it would be a punishment? I can’t think of anything more pleasurable than taking my sweet time teasing and taunting you, making you hold off until you’re screaming my name when you come.”

  She moaned and leaned into his chest. “Stop. You’re torturing me, Ash. No matter what you call it, that is most definitely punishment.”

  “Well, then, what do you say we do a little role reversal?”

  Intrigued, she glanced up at him, cocking her head to the side.

  “You on top. You calling the shots.”

  “Mmmm, I’m liking this idea. Definitely has merit.”

  “Then get to it, baby. Take your man to bed and ride him.”

  She leaned up to kiss him, palming his face in her hands as she held him for the lusty, hot kiss.

  “Mmmm,” he returned, mimicking her sound of pleasure. “My beautiful little submissive likes the idea of being in charge for a night.”

  She loved those words from his lips. His beautiful little submissive. The way he said it. So much tenderness and affection in his voice. And she knew what he was doing. She loved him even more for it. He was wiping away the thoughts of Michael. Of her relationship with him. The fact that he never gave back anything he took.

  Tonight Ash was offering her the most precious gift she could receive. Himself. His trust. Him relinquishing control to her.

  This was not a man who ever handed over control or dominance. And she didn’t delude herself. She was in charge but he would effectively be topping from the bottom. Because she knew he would still be in control. He would just be controlling her being in control.

  “Get on the bed,” she said huskily. “Flat on your back, head on the pillow. I want you to be comfortable.”

  “Baby, I have to say, you on top of me with me deep inside you? Doesn’t matter where I am. I’ll be comfortable.”

  She smiled and caressed his jaw before turning him toward the bed.

  Who was she kidding? She had no idea how to do this. Didn’t even have a strong desire to be the one in control. But it was what he wanted and what he wanted to give to her, so she’d do it without reservation.

  He did her bidding, stretching his long frame over the bed. His cock jutted upward, reaching for his navel as he lay on his back. It was straining, utterly rigid, the head dark plum and liquid already seeping from the slit.

  She crawled onto the bed between his legs and slowly made her way up his body on her hands and knees. She dipped her head and licked over his sac, rolling the balls with her mouth.

  He moaned softly and twisted, adjusting his position so she had better access. She tongued the sac, sucking it lightly into her mouth before nibbling her way up to the base of his cock. Then she swiped her tongue up the underside, tracing the thick vein all the way to the head.

  When she got to the top, she hesitated a brief moment, circling the tip with her tongue. Then she sucked him deep in one swift motion. His hips shot off the bed, arching up, pushing him farther into her mouth.

  “Goddamn, Josie. Feels so good, baby. That mouth of yours is pure sin.”

  She grinned. “Glad you approve.”

  His hand tangled in her hair, holding her down to meet his thrust. Yes, he’d relinquished control to her, but he was still very much in command of the situation.

  For several long moments she sucked and licked, enjoying the way he twitched and quivered beneath her. Then he pulled her head away, his hand still wrapped tightly in her hair.

  “Baby, if you’re going to get on, you need to do it now. I’m close, and I won’t last much longer. Want you with me when I go.”

  She raised her head, freeing her hair from his grasp. Then she swung one leg over his, straddling him. She inched forward until his erection was nestled at the juncture of her thighs.

  Leaning forward, she planted both palms on his chest and levered herself up.

  “I need your help,” she whispered. “Put it in me, Ash.”

  His eyes glittered brightly as he reached down to fist his cock. He stroked through her folds with his other hand, fingering her clit as he positioned himself. When he nudged the head of his dick against her opening, she lowered herself, capturing his erection.

  He pulled his hands free and then curled his fingers around her hips, anchoring her to him as she slid farther down to fully envelop him.

  With a contented sigh, she took him all the way in. The sensation of fullness was overwhelming. Even more so than when he’d fucked her with the plug in her ass. She felt unbelievably small and tight and he felt enormous stuffed into her pussy.

  Every movement sent a twinge of unbelievable pleasure winging through her abdomen. She lifted up, moaning when he began to slide back the way he’d come.

  “Jesus,” Ash ground out. “So tight. You’re clamped around me like a greedy fist, baby. Never felt anything like it.”

  She put more weight on her hands and pressed harder into his chest. He didn’t seem to mind one bit. She watched his eyes, the way they swarmed with desire, pleasure, how they blanked and the pupils flared each time she took him whole.

  His jaw was firm, as if his teeth were set hard. There were lines of tension around his eyes and across his forehead. A light sheen of perspiration glistened on his brow. He was the most beautiful man she’d ever laid eyes on. And he was all hers.

  “Take me over, baby,” he said. “Tell me what you need to get there and let’s go together.”

  “Touch me,” she whispered. “My breasts and my clit.”

  He smiled, those gorgeous eyes sparking fire. He cupped one breast and then slid his other hand between their bodies to stroke her intimately. She closed her eyes,
threw back her head and waited a moment to let herself catch up to where he was.

  When the stirrings of her orgasm rose, sharp and edgy, she began to move again. She rose up and then slid down. She rotated, grinding her ass into his groin. Ash’s hands never left her. He continued to caress her breasts, alternating between them. He stroked over her clit, firmly, with just enough pressure, but still infinitely gentle.

  “I’m almost there,” she panted out. “What about you?”

  “There,” he bit out. “Don’t stop, baby. Whatever you do, don’t stop now.”

  She went wild atop him. Head thrown back, hair streaming down her back, her mouth open in a silent scream that eventually found its voice. His hands were seemingly everywhere. His cock driving deep.

  Her orgasm rose higher and higher, out of control, spiraling like a skydive. And still, the pressure mounted, no relief.

  Ash arched his hips, slamming into her from underneath. She went wet around him and then realized he was already coming, his release flooding her. Wet sucking sounds filled her ears, erotic. The scent of sex, tangy and musky, filtered through her nose.

  He pinched her nipple between his thumb and forefinger. Just enough of an edge to the pleasure to finally, finally send her hurtling over the edge. It was a free fall like she’d never experienced. Powerful. Explosive. Painful and yet so oh-my-God good that all she could do was feel.

  She dug her nails into his chest, knowing she tore his skin. He’d wear the marks for days, just like she wore his marks of possession. In a savage moment, she was thrilled by them. The idea that he was hers. That this was proof of her possession of him. By God, she may have chosen to submit to him, but he was every bit as much hers as she was his.

  She collapsed forward, her arms no longer able to support her. Ash gathered her tightly against him, holding her as he whispered in her ear. She had no idea what he said. Couldn’t hear it over the roaring in both ears. Her blood pounded. Her body was tingling from head to toe. She felt like she’d just been hit by lightning and all her nerve endings were fried.

  Then she became aware of another pulse. The comforting, reassuring feel of Ash’s heartbeat beneath her cheek. She sighed, snuggled deeper into his arms, and he squeezed her tighter, holding on as they both struggled for breath.

  “Am I smothering you?” she asked weakly.

  “No, darling. Don’t want you to move. Just stay right here with me. Just like this. I’m going to stay inside you for as long as I can. We’ll clean up in the morning.”

  She smiled as he stroked her hair with his hand. Nothing felt as good as right here, right now, sprawled atop her man after she’d ridden him long and hard. And him staying inside her for as long as he could manage it? Definitely a good way to sleep. What could be better?

  Nothing could touch her here. No outside world. No crazy families. No abusive ex-lovers. No fears of Ash being arrested for meting out justice to the man who hurt her.

  Just her and Ash.

  I love you.

  The words remained locked inside her. But she knew without a doubt that soon they’d find their way to the surface. Who cared if it was too soon? When the time was right, she’d tell him.

  chapter twenty-two

  The next day, Ash sent his driver to pick up Josie from their apartment. She was having lunch with him and Brittany at the Bentley Hotel where Brittany now worked. After meeting his friends the night before, she wasn’t as nervous about meeting Brittany, although she had to admit to being really curious about the other woman.

  Ash had told her that until recently Brittany had played the dutiful bitch daughter, siding with his family in their scorn and revilement of him. But that she’d come to him in tears because she wanted out.

  It took someone strong to stand up to the kind of family—and mother—Ash described. Especially after thirty years. And a marriage that her mother had pushed her into.

  Ash was waiting outside when the car arrived, and he opened the door, extending his hand to help Josie out. He slipped an arm around her waist, keeping her snug against his side as they walked into the restaurant.

  They were directed to the same table where she and Ash had eaten that first night, and there was a woman already seated. Josie soaked in the details from a distance so she wouldn’t be staring once they got to the table.

  She could definitely see the family resemblance. Brittany had the same blond hair with a variety of shades just like Ash. She also had the same green eyes Ash sported and the shape of their faces was very similar.

  When they got close, Brittany looked up and a wide, welcoming smile curved
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