Falling in deeper, p.10
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       Falling in Deeper, p.10
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         Part #11 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black

  trust through sex or romance . . . but they clearly weren’t against it.

  Stone leashed his excitement as he pocketed the key. “Perfect. I’ll touch base if there are any developments here. Call me if you’ve got news.”

  “Will do.”

  The second Jack left, Stone headed down the hall toward the locked playroom door. He may not have started his sex life as a Dominant, but he couldn’t deny that he liked being in control.

  As he passed the bedroom, he spotted Lily’s luggage and grimaced. Getting his cover story straight came first, so he shoved the key back in his jeans and dragged the pieces of her luggage into the living room.

  One by one, he opened them. Once he found the details he needed and her past was out in the open . . . Well, that key was burning a hole in his pocket. He didn’t intend to let it smolder there too long.

  For now, he crawled back into bed with her. Within moments, she curled around him. Her softness and scent aroused him as if she’d stroked her hand up his cock. But Stone resolved to savor every moment of the delicious hell until she woke.

  * * *

  LILY woke cozy-warm and wrapped in Stone’s arms. At some point, she’d laid her head on his chest and simply dropped into slumber. In the past, she’d only ever done that with Axel, and it had taken him months to coax the necessary trust from her. Stone had broken down that barrier in next to no time.

  Oh my god.

  She jerked out of his arms and jackknifed up, staring out the window that was covered in gauzy black drapes. Sunlight streamed from high in the sky. She hadn’t just slept through the night; she’d conked out and snoozed through most of the morning, too.

  Staring down at the muscled, mostly naked ex-con, Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to know why she’d trusted him on any level so readily and easily.

  “You don’t have to jump up. We have nowhere to go,” he said lazily, his eyes still closed.

  She swallowed hard and tried to breathe. So much intimacy . . . Their bodies were nearly plastered together. The sheets smelled like him, woodsy, musky. Intoxicating.

  Detrimental to her mental health.

  “I-I should get up.”

  When Lily tried to crawl from the bed, Stone clamped a hand around her wrist, not hard enough to hurt her but tight enough to make certain she knew he didn’t want her to leave. “We’re going to talk.”

  Meaning he planned to ask her all the questions she’d refused to answer last night.

  “I’ve already talked as much as I intend to.” She yanked her arm, but he didn’t give an inch. “Let go.”

  He cracked his eyes open, and his dark expression told her that he wasn’t in the mood for pushback. “Here’s what’s going to happen: You have ten minutes in the bathroom. Brush your teeth, wash your face, change your clothes—whatever you need to do. Then you’ll come back here and listen to some things I have to say.”

  Lily didn’t want to agree, but it would give her a reason to escape the dizzying masculinity of his presence and let her collect her wits again.

  “Fine.”

  When he released her, she escaped and took every second of those ten minutes in the bathroom, plus another few to steady herself.

  Finally, he pounded on the bathroom door. “Time’s up. And I have coffee.”

  When she emerged, she found him in yesterday’s clothes. He’d obviously cleaned up somewhere. Kitchen? More important, he held two mugs of steaming brew.

  “Follow me.” He cocked his head to the bedroom. “Sit.”

  Warily, she perched on the edge of the bed. He rewarded her by handing her a mug of liquid caffeine. Stone sat on the other side and sipped his coffee, staring at her over the rim.

  “Did you sleep well?”

  She flushed. “You know I did since it appears I slept all over you.”

  He frowned. “That bothers you. Why?”

  “Because I don’t trust you.” But that wasn’t entirely true. Some part of her registered him as nonthreatening to her physical safety or she would never have slept five minutes beside him, much less ten hours.

  “Maybe I don’t trust you, either.”

  “What does that mean?” She frowned. “It’s not like I’m going to rape you.”

  He set his coffee down on the nightstand beside him. “And I’m not going to rape you. If I’d wanted to last night, it would have been damn easy,” he pointed out with an acerbic smile. “But as it happens, I don’t want you any way except willing, panting, and begging.”

  A wave of heat rolled through her body at his words. She’d say he was thinking wishfully, but when she had awakened all plastered against him, her rational mind had nearly panicked while her body hadn’t wanted to let go. If she didn’t steel herself against him, would all that needing and whimpering he’d described come next?

  Trashing the thought, she shook her head. “You keep dreaming big.”

  Stone sent her a smile of supreme confidence.

  His expression set her off. “Wipe that smarmy look off your face. Or are you so convinced you’re god’s gift to women and that, of course, I’m going to fall all over myself to get your pants off and jump on your penis?”

  He burst out laughing. “No, baby. I’m convinced the heat between us can’t be denied. But you’re funny, which is a point in your favor. Because I also know you’re lying to me, which isn’t.”

  “Lying?” A chill ran through her, leaching out all the heat she’d felt only moments before. “What do you mean?”

  Stone reached behind him. She thought he meant to grab his mug and swig the coffee, but he turned back around with an all-too-familiar black tome in hand and dumped it on the bed between them.

  She gasped. “You had no right . . .”

  When she reached for her yearbook, he grabbed her wrist. “Lily Alexandra Taylor. That’s who you really are. You lied to me, Thorpe, Axel . . . everyone. And you did it for years. Don’t deny it. Once I saw this name embossed on the front of the cover, I looked up the corresponding picture. Imagine my surprise to find out that Misty isn’t your name at all. A few Internet searches gave me a whole lot of information about you, like the fact that you’re considered a teen runaway.”

  Lily shook her head, already trying to spin more tales to throw Stone off track. But his dark stare ripped away her composure, warning her that he already knew every story she’d concoct now would be bullshit.

  “You’re getting yourself into something you don’t understand. Please don’t do this.”

  “You think I don’t get a man like Timothy Canton?” He scoffed.

  Hearing Stone say that monster’s name made Lily freeze from head to toe. She gaped at him. “You . . .”

  “Figured out the name of the guy tormenting you? Not too tough. The police questioned you about him. You disappeared less than a week later. I can put two and two together. He’s just a thug who put a little spit and polish on his street cred and figured out how to morph his drug money into political power. He’s not hard to understand.”

  Stone had guessed the truth so quickly and accurately. If he could figure out all that in a night, what else could he divine during the next few days? Weeks?

  “So now that your big secret is out, why don’t you tell me what happened so we can start working together to take him down?”

  She scrambled off the bed, shoving her mug on the little nightstand and shaking her head frantically. “There is no taking him down. You’re insane.”

  Stone climbed off the bed and blocked her path to the door. “You’re insane if you’d rather keep running than try.”

  “I know what he’s capable of. There’s no way I can stop him.”

  “If not you, then who? You make him sound bigger than Godzilla, like he’s defeated everyone else who’s ever come up against him.”

  “Yes!” She didn’t know how else to make him understand.

  “Unless you want him to keep destroying other innocent lives and killing, it sounds as if you’re the only one who c
an make sure he gets what he deserves.”

  That gave Lily pause. She’d considered that before, but she lacked the deviousness and the might to vanquish him alone. Yet if she died, some of his worst secrets died with her. Then no one would ever know the terrible truth. The thought of doing nothing to stop him from killing someone else’s loved ones and destroying their families slashed her more than a vague sense of shame.

  She dropped her face in her hands. Tears didn’t come. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. Why should she be allowed to purge all this grief and guilt and move on?

  “So let’s start at the beginning.” His voice had gone gentle, but she didn’t mistake the steel beneath. “How did you come into contact with this fucker?”

  Was she going to answer that question and put him at risk, too? But if she didn’t, wouldn’t she be leaving other unsuspecting people in danger? God, she didn’t see a right answer.

  “I need time to think about this.”

  Stone shook his head before she even finished speaking. “That’s one thing we don’t have. We have to shut Canton down now. He’s about to declare his candidacy for governor of California. So unless you want him in charge of the whole state and its population . . .”

  Shock pelted Lily. She couldn’t breathe. Her feet almost went numb beneath her. “That can’t be. Everyone from the neighborhood knows he’s a violent drug dealer and a crook.”

  “Well, he’s never been convicted of anything, so with the right spin doctors, his past looks like police bullying and smear tactics from his opponents, both political and otherwise.” He sent her a cynical smile.

  Feeling dizzy and cold, she clapped a hand over her mouth at the thought of someone like Timothy Canton being in charge of laws, taxes . . . and children.

  As she reached out to steady herself, she stumbled. Stone was right there to catch her. “Together, we can put him down.”

  She turned to him, incredulity dropping her jaw. “Why are you bothering?”

  “You’ve asked me this question.”

  “I still don’t understand the answer.”

  “Let me make myself clear.”

  Stone pulled her body against his and grabbed her cheeks. He stared, his expression delving deep. She felt the zing and jolt of their connection. With his gaze, it seemed as if he willed her to understand that he wanted her in every way and refused to accept anything less.

  Lily’s heart began to thrum. Her blood heated and charged through her veins. Her breasts tightened, and she really didn’t want to think about why she could feel the soft ache blooming lower again. She waited, suspended, anticipation racing over her skin. Yes, she should push him away.

  Somehow, she couldn’t.

  He bent to her, swooping down, looming closer. Right or wrong, good or bad—it didn’t matter. Lily rose to meet him, clutching his hard shoulders with desperate fingers and pressing herself against him with a gasp as he captured her lips.

  Just like the first time, he didn’t hesitate or test his welcome. No, he cupped her jaw in his big hands and tilted her head to his satisfaction before he devoured her as if he’d been dying for her taste.

  Their breaths mingled, and she sank against his solid warmth. What was this chemical reaction to him that she couldn’t seem to fight? Why did her will to resist always evaporate as soon as he touched her? In that moment, he felt not only like someone who could protect her from everything bad in the world but like the man who could bring her body—maybe even her soul—to life.

  Lily clung to the taut bulges of his biceps and opened to him eagerly. Later she’d worry about what she’d do if Stone wasn’t all he claimed. She’d had so little pleasure in her life, and Lily wanted to drown in the bliss he gave her now.

  Suddenly, he wrenched away, breathing hard and staring, as if he needed to affirm that she found their kiss every bit as mind-blowing as he did. She didn’t answer with words, just gripped him tighter, unable to hide the desire jetting through her in a hot whirl. The rush of it was scary as hell but new, exhilarating. A white-knuckled thrill. She wasn’t ready to let him go.

  “Lily,” he breathed before he cocked his head and descended again. Their lips fused together once more. Their tongues collided. And she melted in his arms. No, she unraveled completely as he took her mouth in an urgent press, claiming her while utterly dismantling her resistance.

  When she felt limp and breathless and willing to do anything for more, he backed away. “Are we on the same page now?”

  “You can have sex with anyone,” she blurted.

  “But when I’m with someone else, I can’t have sex with you. Besides, it’s about more than that. I don’t like to see you hurt or afraid. When you smile, I find myself doing the same. I have a crazy, maybe irrational need to pursue you. I’m not fighting it, and I wish like hell you wouldn’t.”

  Weirdly, she understood exactly what he meant. Her need to be with him seemed crazy and irrational to her, too. But that didn’t make it any less real.

  She slumped against him. “I don’t understand.”

  “I’m not sure we’re meant to understand, baby. Just deal.”

  Maybe he was right. Whatever she felt wasn’t something she could analyze or control but . . .

  “It’s all happening too fast. Us, this thing with Canton . . .”

  “If you drag your feet, you may be too late to save yourself or anyone else. Haven’t you kept his secrets long enough? Why should you bear everything alone? I can help you.” He brushed his knuckles along her cheek. “I want to help you. You just have to let me.”

  Lily blinked back at him. How many times had she felt the weight of the ugly past pressing down on her chest until she couldn’t breathe? How often had she wished that she could share all the fears and wretched guilt with at least one person who would understand?

  “If I tell you what you want to know, I don’t have any proof. How could we possibly take him down?”

  “If I know where to look through his records, I can unearth his secrets. We can turn them over to the police. Jack would help. So would the Edgington brothers. I’ll bet Sean Mackenzie would use his resources, too.”

  “The FBI?” The thought of getting tangled up with the feds scared the hell out of Lily. Would they punish her for withholding the truth for so long?

  On the other hand, hadn’t she earned it?

  Stone nodded. “Some branch of law enforcement with teeth is going to have to go after him.”

  She frowned. Somehow she’d imagined that an ex-con would advocate a more vigilante form of justice, like flat-out killing Canton himself, but if he wasn’t a violent criminal, she supposed his involving cops or agents made sense.

  “I’m scared,” she whispered, barely hearing herself over the whoosh of the air conditioner kicking in to combat the heat.

  “I know.” He reached for her hand and squeezed it. “I’m going to help you, but I need more details. How did you come into contact with Canton?”

  * * *

  LILY bowed her head and looked as if she was gathering her courage. Stone didn’t think she intended to say anything for a long moment, and he tried to sort through other arguments he might use to persuade her.

  “Canton was the local drug lord,” she began hesitantly. “He ran an entire neighborhood with a tightfisted rule and enforced it with absolute violence. He tried to appear upstanding, but everyone who knew him knew the truth. My friend Erin—her brother, Corey, was one of his street dealers. Their dad had run off and left them with no money. Their mom was a binge drinker. Corey was just trying to feed himself and his younger sister, keep a roof over their heads. They had it rough. But then, the whole neighborhood did.”

  “So what happened?”

  She dragged in a jagged breath. “Corey got arrested. At the time, his mom was in jail for driving while intoxicated. He was worried about his sister. Erin was my best friend, only fifteen.
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