Falling in deeper, p.3
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       Falling in Deeper, p.3
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         Part #11 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black

  What a fool she’d been.

  She hated walks down memory lane, but her mind trekked the path anyway, taking her back three months, to the night they’d met.

  Zeb had led her to a well-lit playroom. Stone had been waiting inside. He’d zipped his gaze around to zero in on her as Zeb ushered her through the door. Dark eyes narrowed, body coiled, Stone had given Lily the impression of a male animal on high alert as he sized up his prey.

  After quick introductions, Zeb had smoothed a hand across the small of her back and bent to her ear. “He asked to meet you.”

  Lily had no idea why. As she looked into Stone’s face, she’d seen hunger, the kind that made both uncertainty and excitement jet through her blood. She’d blushed because despite being twenty-three, she’d had sex with exactly two men in her life, and neither had really made her breath catch or her heart race. With just a glance, Stone made it clear that he intended to seduce her and give her pleasure until she screamed. In that moment, knowing Axel was in love with Mystery and that she had to start looking forward, not back, she’d met Stone’s hot stare.

  “Hi, there.”

  Even his husky voice sent tingles of excitement racing across her skin. Lily’s chest tightened as if she couldn’t breathe properly.

  “Hi.” The word had come out barely a whisper, but he gave her an encouraging smile.

  “She’s a little shy, our Sweet Pea,” Zeb supplied with the sort of watchful glare she’d expect from an older brother. “Talk to her about pop culture and she’ll relax.”

  Lily blushed again, this time in embarrassment. Most men didn’t care about celebrity crushes and breakups. She loved keeping up. Their lives seemed so bright and interesting. Taylor Swift didn’t hide in the shadows. Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t worrying about her past. They had so much confidence, and Lily hoped that someday some of that would rub off on her.

  “I don’t know much about it,” Stone said, that voice of his like a caress. “But I want to hear about everything that interests you.”

  “We can talk about something else.”

  “Remember, no sudden moves and nothing sexual,” Zeb warned as he backed away, hovering at the door.

  She tried not to roll her eyes at his overprotective spiel. Thankfully, Stone ignored him and approached her slowly, towering so she had to crane back her head to study his hard, chiseled face.

  Then he cupped her shoulder and she barely managed to bite back a gasp. Hot, sure, electric, his touch wasn’t like anything she’d ever felt. Zeb had laid his palm on the small of her back just moments ago and she’d felt nothing. Why did Stone affect her so differently?

  Lily peered into his dark eyes. She didn’t have to ask if he felt the pull between them. He made no attempt to hide his desire to get her naked and put his hands on her.

  Was being romantically interested in someone supposed to feel like this? She really wouldn’t know.

  He walked her across the room, to a bench usually used for sub restraint. Long and somewhat narrow, it wasn’t the most comfortable but still one of the few places in the room to sit.

  After Stone helped her down, he perched beside her, his thigh nearly pressed to hers. She experienced that difficulty breathing again. As if her body were a divining rod, all her senses seemed attuned to him. Her stomach knotted into a nervous ball.

  “You okay here?” he asked softly. “Do you need me to put more space between us?”

  Mentally, she probably did. But she answered him instinctively. “No. Tell me about you.”

  He shrugged. “Not much to say. I’ve been living in South Texas for a while but I’m working with Jack Cole on a technical project now. I’m a computer guy. I saw you a few weeks ago, the night of Thorpe’s birthday, and I thought you were one of the prettiest women I’ve ever seen.”

  Heat crept up her face again. The curse of having a fair complexion. She had to get control of her reactions and start acting more like a normal woman if she ever wanted to have a normal life. Stone might not be a forever guy—who knew?—but maybe they could try dating or something.

  “I remember seeing you that night, too,” she admitted, not quite meeting his intense, dark stare.

  He curled a finger under her chin. “Look at me.”

  Once she complied, he smiled. And Lily wasn’t sure she’d ever felt more connected to another human being. Her skin sizzled, her body trembled—and she didn’t even want to think about what his mere gaze did to her girl parts.

  “Tell me about you,” he murmured.

  “I’ve been Dominion’s receptionist for the last few years.” And . . . what? She couldn’t tell the man her past. She had no idea what to say about her future plans or aspirations since she couldn’t look ahead knowing Canton might catch up to her. “Like Zeb said, I follow pop culture. I also like to read.” She rolled her eyes, tried to poke fun at herself, and not think about the fact that she felt like a high school girl with her first crush. “I’m shy.”

  “You’re doing great,” he praised. “Do you have a favorite sport or hobby?”

  “I’m not so good at anything that requires a ball, but I sew a lot of my own dresses.” She fluffed the full red skirt of her swing dress; then she realized how many men didn’t care about sewing. “You must think that’s boring.”

  “No. I wouldn’t be any good at it.” He shrugged. “But I find it interesting that you can measure out cloth and put pieces together to make something to wear.”

  “No, you don’t.”

  “Seriously,” he vowed. “It’s probably like me telling you about the web codes I unravel.”

  He had a point. “Yeah, I don’t know how you do it, but it would be cool to watch.”

  Stone smiled wide. “Exactly. So . . . what would be a perfect date for you?”

  “I have no idea.” To be honest or not? Lily gnawed on her lip. If she ever saw him again, she would already have to lie about so many other things. She’d rather tell him the truth where she could. If he thought she was a freak, then he was never going to like her for her anyway. “I’ve never been on one.”

  That took him aback. “Never? Baby, why not? Have all the men in your life been blind?”

  She laughed. “I left home young, and at first I was just figuring out how to make ends meet. When I came to work here, the environment was a little intimidating at first, you know?”

  He grinned. “I have to admit my first trek through the doors was more than I bargained for.”

  “You don’t . . .” How did she ask a virtual stranger who seemed to give off a Dom vibe if he’d ever topped anyone?

  “I’m intrigued and I’d be willing to look into it, but so far, no.” He took her hand, his thumb grazing her fingers. “What’s the deal with you and Axel?”

  She squelched her grief that Axel was no longer her protector. It conflicted with the excitement she felt around Stone. Which confused her. Besides, Axel needed to move on with his life and embrace the woman he loved. “We’re not together anymore. And we didn’t really date, per se.”

  Stone frowned as if he didn’t quite understand. Truthfully, her relationship with Axel wouldn’t make sense to most people. And it didn’t matter now. He had his future. Maybe Stone could be a part of hers in some small way, even if only in her fantasies.

  “Um . . . What else? Until a few months ago, I had a cat. A male. I took him in as a stray but he got cancer and I had to put him down. I named him Bongo because he liked to bounce around the house like a drum,” she added, then shook her head. “Do you have a pet? Sorry I’m babbling. You make me nervous.”

  “Sorry to hear he died.” He squeezed her hand. “No pets. And I’ll be honest. You make me a little nervous, too.”

  Lily couldn’t help the smile that widened her lips. “You’re just saying that.”

  “No. Here.” He lifted her hand to his chest and placed it over his racing heart. The hard, rapid thump under her palm made her insides jump with delight. “You feel that?”

  She no
dded earnestly. And as if she couldn’t control herself, her gaze dropped to his lap. His heart wasn’t the only thing filling with blood. Lily closed her eyes and stifled a grin.

  “I do.” She bit her lip as she withdrew her palm. “My heart is beating fast, too.”

  Was that admitting too much? She looked down at the hands she wrung in her lap and realized that her skirt had ridden up on the side and exposed her black thigh highs.

  Lily yanked the skimpy fabric down and looked up in time to see Stone’s stare glued to the sight. “That’s embarrassing.”

  His face tightened as he swallowed. “Not at all, baby. You’re sexy.” He gave her a deep rumble of masculine laughter. “Forget I said that. I asked Axel to set up this meeting so I could get to know you, not so I could talk you out of your clothes. At least not yet.” He winked. “So you work for Thorpe?”

  She accepted the subject change but couldn’t wipe the pleased little smile off her face. Big, attractive Stone thought she was sexy. He didn’t seem to care that she didn’t know what to say and fumbled over her words. “I do. I don’t think he really needs a receptionist, and I try to help with inventory, organization . . . whatever he can’t get to. I’ve also pitched in with the tasks Callie used to complete. She’s had a tough pregnancy at times.” Lily smiled fondly. “But every time she’s sick or tired, Thorpe and Sean are both so attentive, I can’t decide who’s more over the top in taking care of her. She’s had a terrible past, so I’m happy for her.”

  “That’s thoughtful. They’re lucky to have you.”

  “I like to help. Thorpe has given me so much . . .” She shook her head. Stone didn’t care about that, either. “So you do technical things for Jack?”

  He shrugged. “I’ve been helping him with a case. It’s been complicated but successful.”

  “Jack is great. All the guys here are. Thorpe only grants membership to people who have a really positive vibe. He and the Edgington brothers are some of my favorite people.”

  “But you never dated any of the members?”

  Lily wasn’t sure how to answer that. She came with a lot of baggage, and even if the men of Dominion didn’t precisely understand, they knew it was heavy. Of course, they’d chosen women who could give them their hearts, souls, and bodies.

  Because she probably couldn’t, she should stop wasting Stone’s time.

  “No. I should go.” She stood and fluffed out her skirt, then held out her hand. “I enjoyed meeting you.”

  “Why are you leaving?” He wrapped hot fingers around her wrist. She could have escaped if she wanted but the second he put his hand on her, Lily ached to ease closer. “I drove over five hours just to meet you. Don’t go.”

  She bit her lip. The excited girl inside her wanted to cave immediately. She was flattered and she liked him, probably more than was smart. On the other hand, she’d never felt this way about a man and he scared the heck out of her.

  “If no one told you, I’m not typical.”

  “I’m not, either. So maybe that makes us a good match. Is there anything wrong with seeing if we are?”

  When he put it like that, no. But . . . “I’m a project.”

  He seemed to mull that over as his grip around her wrist tightened ever so slightly. “That term indicates you think there’s something wrong with you. Maybe there’s just something wrong with the people you’ve been with in the past. Maybe they simply weren’t right for you.”

  “You think you are?” she asked, more breathless than she’d like.

  He shrugged. “How do we know if we don’t try?”

  Another good point.

  “It takes a long time for me to trust.” After this confession and admitting that she’d never dated, she didn’t want to go for the trifecta and blurt out that she was afraid of sex. Lily wanted to be at least somewhat honest with him, but that was more than she could make herself say just now.

  “Let’s take it one day at a time. I’m attracted to you. I think it must be mutual because you keep eating me up with those pretty eyes.”

  Oh god. She probably was. Lily felt heat scorch her cheeks.

  When she tried to tug from his grasp, he held firm but his expression gentled. “That’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I like you. I’m hoping you could like me, too. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that right now.”

  Lily thought of a hundred objections, mostly centered around her insecurities. She didn’t want to seem like a head case, and she liked the way he made her feel both beautiful and adored with just a glance. “I guess not.”

  Just then, the lights in the room went black. The hum of the air conditioner ceased. For a moment, her heart stopped. It was probably paranoia, wondering every time something out of the ordinary happened if Canton had found her.

  “Sweet Pea?” Stone called as his firm grip on her wrist turned reassuring. He wound his other arm around her and anchored his hand protectively on her hip. “You okay, baby?”

  “A little scared of the dark.” She squeezed her eyes shut, not wanting to remember why.

  Stone’s voice and presence was a balm. Surprisingly, instead of fearing the big man, she had the sense that he’d protect her, and she edged closer.

  “That’s it. Come here.” Gently, he guided her down onto his lap and nestled her against his chest before he wrapped his beefy arms around her. “I’m sure it’s nothing. But I won’t let anything happen to you.”

  Across the room, Lily heard Zeb opening the door. Not a sliver of light entered the room from the normally bright hall.

  “Thorpe?” the Dungeon Monitor called out.

  “The power probably surged or something.” Stone soothed her as he caressed her hair and eased her head onto his shoulder. “Breathe. I’ve got you.”

  She almost felt safe. Maybe his words or voice had calmed her. Maybe it was the way he’d brought her close as he’d reassured her. This felt like being with Axel . . . but different. His nearness didn’t merely comfort her. For the first time, being close to a man excited her, too. Lily let herself melt against him.

  Zeb apparently stepped into the hall but left the door open. She could hear him and Thorpe calling back to each other. The breaker had tripped. They’d be able to restore power in a minute.

  Problem solved, Lily let out a huge sigh of relief and drank in the moment of feeling like a normal woman enjoying alone time with an interesting guy.

  Then Stone cupped her cheek and led her face down, her mouth close to his own. His warm breath feathered over her lips. She froze and fought the impulse to lunge forward and close the distance between them.

  “I don’t think I can wait another second, but stop me if you’re not ready for me to kiss you,” he whispered.

  Lily didn’t have the will to resist him in that moment. As a freshman in high school, she’d first kissed Rick Mensell because he’d been the cutest boy and every girl had wanted him. As a grown woman, she’d first asked Axel to kiss her because she’d needed to know if she could bear a man’s touch again. Neither guy had made her feel a tenth of the thrill that having Stone Sutter’s mouth hovering over hers, teasing her with his almost-kiss, did.

  She didn’t think she could speak, so she tilted her head instead, positioning her mouth perfectly against his, and dropped a brush of fingers on his shoulder. That was all the encouragement he needed.

  A heartbeat later, he settled his lips on hers. He didn’t experiment or bother to test their fit. He kissed her as if he already knew how thoroughly he intended to take her mouth and how good it would feel. For a delicious eternity, Stone cupped her jaw and held her exactly where he wanted her. She couldn’t misinterpret his touch, which said he intended to take every bit of her that she’d surrender.

  He nudged her lips apart. Something shockingly alive dashed down her spine. A dizzy euphoria filled her head. Lily clenched her legs together, feeling an ache tighten there that could only be desire.

  With the tender press of his fingers against her face, h
e guided her as he dove deeper into the kiss and slid his tongue against her own. She’d kissed Axel this way before. But it had never made her feel antsy and hot, like she wanted to writhe against him, strip her clothes off, and beg him to touch her.

  She barely knew Stone. They had no history. Why did she ache for him so desperately?

  Suddenly, the lights flicked on, glinting behind her eyelids. Lily tried to ease away and survey the situation. Stone only held firm, stroking her jaw with his thumb, and kissed her with more urgency.

  She let him. As he possessed her mouth, the world and all its problems melted away. She forgot to be scared or worry that he would want more than she could give. She didn’t even think about the fact that they were virtual strangers. Instead, she sank
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