Falling in deeper, p.12
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       Falling in Deeper, p.12
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         Part #11 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black

  you need to wear that tonight to be comfortable?”

  Lily hesitated. “I think so. It’s part of my ritual, gives me comfort.”

  Since she had every shred of clothing she owned with her, Stone cocked his head in the direction of the hall. “Go ahead.”

  “I’ll just be a minute.”

  The woman was true to her word, but it seemed like a damn long minute. Curiosity was killing Stone. He imagined everything from a body stocking to complete nudity. And he started to sweat. If she showed up wearing absolutely nothing, would he be able to use his brain and stay on top of the scene?

  When she returned, he spun around to see her tiptoe into the room—and lost his jaw when it dropped somewhere around his knees.

  She all but floated in wearing a white baby doll nightgown with ruffled straps over her shoulders, almost-transparent flowers over the pert swells of her breasts, a wide band around the waist that tied into a big bow at the back, and sheer fabric that brushed her thighs with every step, clearly revealing that she wore tiny lacy panties beneath.

  How the fuck was he supposed to use his brain if all the blood he needed to power it fled south to his cock?

  “Is this all right?” she asked softly.

  He could accuse her of trying to torture him, but she already looked so uncertain that he didn’t dare put her off-balance—at least not yet.

  “You look . . .” Stone blew out a breath. “I’m probably never going to forget how sexy you are right now.”

  A tremulous little smile broke out across her face. Her sweet blush followed. “Thank you.”

  “Just being honest.”

  As she sank to her knees and settled herself on the mat, she lifted big eyes to him. “Before we start, can I ask you a question?”

  That gave him pause, but he couldn’t exactly say no if he wanted to win her trust. “Sure.”

  “Why do we need to be in here doing something so personal if you’re just going to ask me questions?”

  Stone had anticipated her wanting an answer for that. He pulled over a rolling stool from the corner and sat in front of her, focusing utterly on her and her alone. “Because the questions are personal and we’re going to build trust while we’re doing it. What’s going on, both with Canton and with us, is too important to have anything less.”

  The little bit of challenge he’d seen on her face slipped off. “You’re right. It’s just . . . everything is happening so fast. I usually take more time to think about things.”

  “If I could slow it down for you, I would.” Because he couldn’t not touch her, he filtered his fingers through the soft hair at her nape. “I’ll bear as much for you as I can, but that’s another reason you need to trust me. If you don’t, you’ll try to handle everything yourself, the way you have for years. And you’ll have no one to turn to if you get overwhelmed.”

  As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he worried she’d point out that she had Axel. God, the thought even made Stone want to grit his teeth.

  Instead, she nodded. “You’re right. What do you want to ask me?”

  He breathed a sigh of relief.

  “First, we need a safe word. Think of one for me. I’d prefer something you’ve never used before.” It might be a bit selfish, but he’d rather she chose one solely for them and their time together.

  “How about . . . ‘lunar’?” She glanced at the moon rising outside the window as the sun set.

  “‘Lunar’ it is. If you say that, I’ll stop everything, and we’ll decide together whether to proceed differently or not at all. What are your hard limits?”

  “I found out that I’m not good with pain. I tried it a few times. The sensations temporarily blocked out everything in my head and made me live strictly in the moment. That was nice at first. But it also left me raw and alone with all my thoughts once they came rushing back. Ultimately, I felt worse afterward, not better. I didn’t have the heart to tell Axel after he’d gone to so much trouble to find a sadist. By then, he was getting involved with Mystery, so it didn’t matter anyway. Oh, I’m afraid of blindfolds. And definitely nothing with knives or needles.” She shuddered.

  “Anywhere I can’t touch you?”

  She sent him an apologetic gaze, looking a bit like a sad angel surrounded by her platinum hair and frothy white garment. “I never really know until that moment. It took Axel a long time before I was mostly good with him touching me whenever and wherever.”

  In other words, once she’d trusted the guy. Had that taken weeks? Months? Stone finally decided he’d be better off not knowing. He had tonight to make this work.

  “I want to understand your experience and where you are emotionally,” he told her. “How long were you under Axel’s protection?”

  “Almost three years. Thorpe asked him to look after me. He tried himself.” She smiled. “I think he was too distracted by Callie even then. His heart wasn’t in it. Axel and I got along, so it was a natural pairing.”

  “Why did Thorpe think you needed someone to look after you?”

  “It started as a protection measure. When I first came to Dominion, some of the Doms wanted to play with me. I refused everyone. When Thorpe asked why, I told him I wasn’t ready. Floating the story around the club that I belonged to Axel precluded others from propositioning me.”

  So it hadn’t been any grand love she’d felt for Axel—at least not at first. “You trusted Axel and relied on him. You were friends, right?”

  “Yes.”

  “How much more than friends?”

  She bowed her head, finally breaking their eye contact. Stone felt the loss acutely and realized that when he couldn’t see her, he couldn’t read her. And he couldn’t handle that.

  “He did his best to take care of me.”

  “You mean sexually?”

  “Yes,” she said so softly.

  Stone had known it, but hearing that still bugged the piss out of him. “And he topped you, too?”

  “Yes.”

  “Did he spank, flog, whip, or otherwise engage in impact play with you?”

  “Not much. He’s not any sort of sadist.”

  Pain seemed to push her buttons in the wrong way, and Stone could easily live without it. “Did he restrain you?”

  “Sometimes. After I came to trust him, that got easier. I even liked it every so often.”

  “How often did you have sex with him?”

  “Occasionally.”

  What did that mean? Stone crooked a finger under her chin and lifted her gaze again. “How occasionally? Once a month?”

  She gave him a self-conscious shrug. “More like once or twice a year.”

  Her answer shocked the hell out of him. The math meant she’d had sex with Axel a mere handful of times? That stunned him all over again. Why?

  Stone frowned, mentally debating which of the three questions pelting his brain would best serve his needs next. He finally chose the most pressing. “Because he didn’t want it more often or you didn’t?”

  Lily took a long time answering. “Both.”

  That stunned Stone silent for a long moment. In one sense, it probably shouldn’t have surprised him because Lily claimed she didn’t enjoy sex. But why hadn’t Axel wanted her more? Was that the reason she believed she wasn’t any good at sex?

  “I think he usually had someone else he enjoyed sex with more,” she volunteered. And she sounded really shamed by that. “He never talked about it with me but . . .”

  “Who usually initiated the sex when you had it?”

  Her eyes filled with moisture and her lower lip trembled. “Can we talk about something else?”

  “No. I asked you a question, Lily.”

  “That’s not my name anymore.” She sniffled, but her tears didn’t fall.

  “Yes, it is,” he shot back. “It always has been. It will be again. You’re not Misty.”

  “I prefer Sweet Pea.”

  Stone’s first instinct was to shut her down but he checked it. Final
ly, he knew something she wanted that he could give her. “If you answer my questions to my satisfaction, I’ll call you that for the rest of the night.”

  She pondered his words for a tense moment. “I initiated. Always.” She slumped her shoulders. “Axel never . . . He helped me but he didn’t really want me, not like that. I only asked him when I needed to be held or got some crazy-ass idea that I could be a normal woman with a normal sex drive. And every time, the whole exercise would remind me for another six months or more that that wasn’t true.”

  Swallowing in shock, Stone stared at her. When she turned her face away, he dropped his finger and let her have a moment of peace without him staring down at her. Without him drilling into her soul.

  Deep inside, Lily seemed to feel every bit as broken as she sounded. He saw that on her face. Heard it in the catch of her voice. Damn it . . .

  “Did he ever give you an orgasm?”

  “Sometimes. When I could get out of my head enough, and we had a few hours to devote to the cause. Like I said, I’m not very good at it.” She sounded both shamed and depressed by that, too.

  Stone had a suspicion that though Axel hadn’t intended it, the guy had made her feel more like a burden than a woman. No wonder orgasm had been difficult and rare.

  “Do you love him?”

  “Yes.”

  Her quick answer slapped him. Stone clenched his fists.

  “As more than a friend?” he clarified.

  Lily didn’t answer right away. “Maybe. He’s the only man I’ve had any sort of relationship with as an adult. He’s talked me through so many of my fears. I’m sure you think I’m still a head case, but I’m way better now than I used to be.”

  She probably did see it that way, and maybe it was true. But that wasn’t love. Stone simply had to prove that to her. And that urge was way more about his own feelings for Lily than his need to persuade her to take the stand.

  “When we first got together, I couldn’t tolerate sex at all. He’s helped me with some coping mechanisms,” she added.

  Stone wasn’t sure whether to shake Axel’s hand or punch him in the face. Maybe both. And maybe he’d had other reasons for being intimate with Lily only when she’d asked for it. Whatever. That was done and over. Now Stone intended to do everything different without triggering her fears.

  “Thank you for your honesty. I know it wasn’t easy.”

  “Being dishonest about my feelings and needs ultimately hurts me more than you,” she said, almost as if she were reciting something that had been drummed into her head.

  While Stone supposed the statement was true, he suspected he had Axel to thank for that, too.

  “It hurts both of us,” he corrected. “Look, I’m not trying to get laid right now; I want to help and understand you. I’m doing my best to make you like me within the context of our larger, more dangerous situation with your past. I have a feeling that trust between us will be important if we both want to defeat Canton and come out of this alive. So before we go any further, do you need to say something? Ask me anything?”

  She blinked, then dropped her gaze again. “Did you think of me when I didn’t take your calls these last few months?”

  “Every fucking day.”

  She frowned. “Why? It was one kiss.”

  The shaking in her voice tugged at him. He didn’t want her to be worried or afraid, but the fact that she wanted to know if she’d been on his mind was pretty damn endearing.

  “Hell if I understand it.”

  “Have you . . . been with anyone since you got out of prison?”

  “Yep.” He hoped that didn’t upset her too much but he wasn’t going to lie. “I’m not a saint.”

  “Since we met?”

  “I’ve had opportunities but . . . no.”

  Her head snapped up again. So that got her attention.

  “D-did you really like kissing me that much?”

  Axel hadn’t? Stone scowled. Her raw, vulnerable questions confused him. Most women protected their hearts and feelings with way more sophisticated mirrors and smoke screens. Lily simply asked.

  Stone slid off the stool and got to his knees in front of her. Yeah, it probably upset the D/s psychological balance or whatever, but Lily needed the touch of a man right now way more than she needed the authority of a Dom.

  He cupped her face in his hands, thumbs caressing her cheeks. “Baby, I kissed you . . . and that was it for me. I hardly think of anything else, except imagining what it will feel like when I do a lot more than kiss you.”

  She tried not to smile. And she didn’t reply, but he was damn happy that his admission hadn’t freaked her out. In fact, he had a better understanding of the state of Lily’s heart and mind. Now he had to put that information to good use.

  His father used to complain jokingly that women didn’t come with user manuals. Stone had never really understood his dad’s complaint until now. He couldn’t help but feel as if he had only one shot to bind Lily to him. Tomorrow the rest of the world would probably invade. If he fucked up, he might not get the opportunity to sway her in his direction again. So he had to pull out all the stops right fucking now.

  “When you had sex with Axel, where did he usually take you? Bed?”

  She shook her head. “Sofa.”

  Lily didn’t elaborate, and Stone found that odd but didn’t press. Instead, he stood and peeled off his shirt, hiding a grin when she stared raptly.

  “Wait here.” He left and found his phone in the bedroom, then flipped through the screens to find the music streaming service he subscribed to. When he found a channel of sexy electronic instrumentals, he launched the first song and reentered the playroom.

  “That okay?” he asked.

  “Yeah. Music helps me relax.”

  Exactly what he’d been hoping. “Close your eyes.”

  She hesitated, closed them, and opened them quickly again. “I have trouble with that. I need to see what’s happening.”

  He would remind her that she needed to trust him to take care of her during a scene, but he understood that fear drove her. On the other hand, he’d bet that when she was too aware of what was happening around her, she couldn’t shut off her brain enough to let pleasure take over. Axel may have let Lily have her way. Stone couldn’t afford to. On some things, he had to be aware not to push her too far past her limits too fast. But right now, she would never unravel for him if he didn’t.

  “I’m here. I’ve got you. We’re in a secure house in the middle of a swamp. There’s no one out here but us. Put yourself in my care. I’ll talk you through everything.”

  Lily seemed to wrestle with herself, biting her lip and staring at him, silently asking if he would harm her when she couldn’t see. That face hurt him, deep down where he wanted to make her happy. But he didn’t rush her.

  Finally, she came to the right conclusion and slid her eyes shut again.

  In reward, he stroked the crown of her head. “Good job, Sweet Pea.”

  “I know I asked you to call me that, but could you . . .” She sighed. “I like it better when you call me ‘baby.’ No one has ever called me that. It makes me feel sexy.”

  And Axel had probably called her Sweet Pea or Misty all the time. Stone took it as a good sign that she wanted things between the two of them to be different.

  “Baby, it would be my pleasure.”

 
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