He nodded, eyes troubled. He guided me into a chair and did up my seat belt. Leaning over me, he gave me the sweetest smile, whispering, “I think we just joined the mile high club.”
I laughed softly as he sat in his own chair and glanced out the window. He looked pensive, completely wrapped up in his thoughts. The air between us no longer seethed with sexual tension, it hummed with emotional connection.
I knew why Q looked quiet—it was because something deeper than just sex had happened. My mind felt it, my heart welcomed it—in the moment where Q made me splinter, I let down an unconscious wall. A wall that had been there my entire childhood—a foundation so I could have some sense of happiness, all while being unloved by my parents.
Q shattered that wall, and he felt it, too.
Something soft webbed between us, and I hoped it was the beginning of our future.
I sighed, resonating with bruises and aches.
High above the world, we were in perfect twisted harmony.
You crawled into the darkness, set my monster free,
so scream, bleed, call out to me, but never say stop, never flee…
I’d done it.
I did what I was after—what the beast was after.
I broke her.
I damaged something deep within Tess, and it f**king butchered me. I wanted to apologise, to slam to my knees and beg for her forgiveness, but she shook her head when I began, shutting me out.
I didn’t know what the f**k happened. Nothing outwardly changed, but something had crumbled—some barrier between us—some ledge we hadn’t crossed.
As the helicopter began its descent from clouds to city, I beat myself up for punishing her. For demanding too much, too soon.
I f**king broke something deep inside her. What if I’ve ruined everything?
Risking a look at Tess, I flinched at the shadows around her neck and the fading carpet pattern on her cheek. Her eyes were closed with a tiny smile on her pink, perfect lips.
She’d removed her pantyhose to get rid of evidence of our in-flight entertainment and her skin was flushed.
My heart thudded hard, spreading foreign warmth through my body. The longer I stared, the more I wanted to wrap her up and keep her safe, but in the same thought, I wanted to kill and ruin anyone who came near her.
I wanted to highlight her bruises, mark her skin, so everyone knew she belonged to me. I wanted to brand her, to scar her, to wear her blood as a blatant warning to any man who ever looked in her direction.
Shit! I’m f**ked up to want to hurt her so badly. I was right to send her back to Brax, and wrong to accept her back. She would never be free now. Not now I’d tasted her submission, felt the break in her psyche.
The delicious snap had sounded like a gong in my heart. I felt her break; I wanted to crawl deep inside her and find out what part of her yielded to me.
It was a sick addiction, and I wanted more. More. More. More.
I wouldn’t be satisfied till I broke every barrier, consumed every thought.
Leaning forward, I put my head in my hands, trying to massage away the rapidly forming headache.
I’d always thought of myself as steel. Forged in hatred for my own father, sculptured by a will of iron to never bend to my heinous family traits. I’d always believed I was invincible. But I wasn’t.
Turned out Tess was a furnace—the f**king kiln and smelter who gave no choice but to buckle and melt and turn into liquid.
Steel didn’t change. It couldn’t change its molecular structure, but liquid metal…it could. Other elements could be added, minerals removed, impurities purged, until an entirely new composite existed.
That’s how I felt.
Melting, changing, evolving.
I just hoped I survived the transition.
“Bonjour, Mr. Mercer. Directement au bureau?” Straight to the office?
I scowled at the chauffeur. In his penguin suit and slicked-back hair, he looked like any other member of my countless staff on call to run me around, do errands, and make sure the f**king scary CEO of Moineau Holdings was happy.
I was never happy.
But today I was worse than normal. I was wound tight and confused, but I kept my tangled emotions hidden beneath a blank angry façade. “Oui.” I smiled tightly in thanks, all the while wondering how the hell I was going to get through the day.
Ushering Tess off the helicopter and into the back of the Rolls-Royce Phantom, I tried to keep my hands soft instead of grabbing her and shaking the crap out of her. Tell me what broke! Tell me if I ruined you.
I wanted her to admit I ruined her as much as I hoped to f**k I hadn’t. Would I ever have one thought that wasn’t schizophrenic?
Tess slid onto the side seat, looking serene and content against the beige leather. She looked around, taking in the crystal bar, the big-screen TV, the decadence of such a vehicle.
“It’s a morning full of surprises,” she whispered.
I didn’t think she meant for me to hear, but as I settled onto the backseat, I asked, “Care to tell me what the other surprises were?”
Perhaps the bit where you came undone, and it snapped so loudly, I heard it in my f**king soul?
I kept my balled hands hidden between my legs, portraying the picture of calm and stability. When really I wanted to slap her and demand the truth.
But her entire demeanour turned languid and hard to read. She moved as if she had a delicious secret. She didn’t move like a woman I’d destroyed.
Trying to tame my rapid heartbeat, I waited for her to answer. But she shook her head and looked out the window as the chauffeur started the car and pulled away. We were on a landing pad on top of a parking garage I owned. My office was next door. The inconvenience of driving the final three minutes paid in dividends for the use of roof space.
Tess picked up a champagne flute with a sparrow flying over a skyscraper etched into the glass. She ran her thumb over the engraving, turning to look at me. “Have I told you how much I love your logo?”
My lips twitched a little. I loved it, too. It took countless days, sketching frantically when I was sixteen, trying to figure out a sigil that I would wear with pride.
Every time I saw it I sat taller, embraced the hard work I did, all because it allowed me to free so many women.
Blondes, brunettes, young, and old.
Without this company—without my success—I wouldn’t have been able to send so many home after a lifetime of torture. It wasn’t often I felt proud. A man like me with so many demons lashing at his soul could never be truly proud of the human he was, but in that moment, I let myself be content.
“I’m glad you like it.”
Suddenly, I regretted the four days with Tess I’d squandered. Instead of taking advantage of having her to myself, I’d buried myself in f**king paperwork, avoiding her questions, her requests for connection.
I’d blocked her off emotionally because I wasn’t ready. I’m still not f**king ready.
But now it felt like such a waste. I could’ve found out everything about her—asked her multiple questions, until I possessed every inch, every thought.
And now it was too late. I let her free. She was no longer my prisoner, secreted away in my house to whip and f**k. She would become known by my staff. She would become a part of my business world.
My throat closed up. Sickness rolled in my stomach, and for the first time since I was a boy, I felt loss. The terror that Tess would find others better than me. That she might one day grow to hate me and share my darkest secrets with the world.
I hated myself for the thought. I could trust her.
But I didn’t, and that one confession made me worse than every other fault combined.
Tess had accepted both me and my beast. She was falling in love with me. She had a power over me that no one else had before. And I didn’t trust her.
Shit, I’m scum.
“I want to take you out to dinner tonight,” I grumbled, trying hard to battle back the darkness.
Tess’s eyes flew to mine. “Dinner? As in a date?” She laughed quietly. “It’s a bit backward, don’t you think? After you owning me and all.”
My back stiffened and the blackness billowed, welcoming me back into its embrace. “I can take you to dinner without your permission. All I need to do is starve you until you f**king yield.” The moment the words were out of my mouth, I rubbed my face, pressing my eyes with stabbing fingertips. Goddammit.
Sucking in a heavy breath, I amended, “I never owned you. I always intended to free you. I just—I couldn’t. Not before I—” I couldn’t finish, couldn’t admit to wanting to completely destroy her before returning her to her tame little f**kwit of a boyfriend.
“I broke my own law by keeping you, but I gave you back to him before I took everything.” I looked up, snarling. “I did the right thing!”
The same crushing weight I’d felt when I stalked from my bedroom the morning I sent Tess away, pushed me into the seat. I’d never felt so hopeless, so helpless, so alone as I did when I watched her plane take off.
Tess slid toward me, capturing my hand and running a gentle thumb over my knuckles. “I know you did the right thing. You wanted to protect me from you.” Her voice helped ease the immobilizing weight in my chest. I risked looking at her.
“The thing is I didn’t need protecting.” She flashed me a bright smile, dispelling the angst between us. “I would love to go to dinner with you, Q.”
Gravity shifted. Again. I dragged Tess into my lap, wrapping my arms tight around her. In my embrace, I held the moon and stars and planets. I held my future f**king happiness, and I’d kill myself if I ever f**ked it up.
Tess wiggled in my lap, doing crazy things to my already swelling cock. “You don’t have to starve me either, you know.”
I snorted, dropping my head to inhale her crisp scent. In a moment of blinding honesty, I whispered, “Thank you. I’m still learning the correct etiquette for asking a woman out on a date.”
She shifted, looking at me with wide eyes. “You’ve never—”
I shrugged. “How can I when I save broken slaves and pay professionals?” Merde, I just admitted to using whores. Fuck me.
Thoughts scattered over her face, a minor trace of disgust flickered in her eyes. She swallowed, visibly chasing the thoughts away. With an unsteady hand, she caressed my cheek, murmuring, “In that case, I’ll make sure this is the best date you’ve ever had.”
“Wow. This is amazing,” Tess said, eyes wide as she took in the lobby of Moineau Holdings.
The floor was covered in tiny mosaics in greys and browns and blacks, depicting a perfect cloud of sparrows. The walls were white marble, so polished they bounced sunlight into every corner, highlighting a mishmash of paintings, sculptures, and water features.
I encouraged local artists to display and sell their work. I charged no commission, and it had become an unnamed art gallery and place to be seen.
Tess bewitched me as she inched forward, soaking in the impressiveness of the lobby.
Tonight I would take her out to dinner, and we’d have our first deep conversation about trivial things. I wanted to hear all her dreams and make them a reality. I wanted to crack her open and know every dark secret.
“This is all yours?” Tess broke into my daydream. Her face held awe while her eyes hid pain and unhappiness.
Why the f**k is she unhappy?
“It belongs to my company. Yes.” I motioned for her to go to the left, and placed my hand on the small of her back to propel her forward. Such an innocent touch. So why did my c**k twitch and my mouth water to taste her again?
We strode through the semi-crowded lobby to my private elevator. She asked, “Just how much do you own, Q?”
I swiped my clearance identification and pressed the lift button, before turning to face her. “Does it matter?” I cocked an eyebrow, watching her closely. It obviously mattered a big f**king deal.
Her eyes darted from mine as she bit her lip.
My stomach twisted. “Whatever is mine is yours. I signed the contract in blood, remember?” The memory of her arriving from Australia, sprouting all sorts of delicious promises, and slicing our palms with the paperknife to seal the deal, entered my mind. The confounding connection I’d felt when our blood smeared together had rocked me to my bestial centre.
The lift pinged, and Tess stepped inside in a daze.
The moment the doors closed, I imprisoned her chin with my fingers. “Don’t. Whatever you’re doing. Stop it.”
She gave me a sad smile. “I’m just blown away. You’ll have to give me time to get used to it.” Her eyes dropped, but then met mine again with a vivid question in their grey depths. “Why me? Why did you let me into your life?”
I scowled, wanting to strike her for ever asking such a dumbass question. I never thought a woman could make me hate my wealth. My ability to do what I did was the one thing I lived for. But right then, I wanted to be penniless if it made Tess more comfortable.
I let go of her chin, running my fingers down her throat, along the valley of her br**sts, over her stomach, veering toward her hip. I clenched my fingers hard around her hipbone, making her squeak.
Instantly the awareness between us sprung to a fever pitch. The lift filled with thick tension and my body grew heavy with lust. “You already know the answer, esclave.” I rocked my hand against the five perfect fingernail marks. I knew they were there; I watched them bleed as I f**ked Tess in the helicopter.
I branded her with yet another mark, all in the name of taming the beast, reminding him that she may hide our violent nature from others, but her skin bore the truth beneath her clothes.
“Q…” Tess battled with giving in to the burn of my fingers, or fighting me off. I didn’t know which would win, and we stared, glared for a millennium, while I waited for her decision.
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