Neeve doesn't understand why any normal person would choose to wear a collar, like a common house pet. So, the collaring ceremony of her best friend's sister in law is the last place she wants to be, even if the hot men watching her send her insides aflame.
Never one for missing the opportunity to teach a bratty sub manners, Grisha intends to show the fiery little redhead the error of her ways. He doesn't expect to see her drawn to the flame like the proverbial moth. When she hurts herself in ways that even a Dom of his experience finds hard to witness, he knows he needs to help her.
Will their sexual chemistry be enough to chase away their demons and burn away their masks? Or is the submission Grisha demands too much for Neeve to accept?
Here's a tasty excerpt:
"Good girl, drink it all." His voice had dropped an octave, and Neeve's skin tightened in need. She tried to scoot away from him, but he anticipated her move, and in the flash of an eye he was sitting on the couch with her on his lap. His strong arms tightened around her when she tried to get off. "Stop it. You will just hurt yourself, and I can still put you over my knee."
He chuckled into her neck when she snorted in frustration, and she glared at him.
"Sure, use your superior strength to make your point. Get off on beating up on women, do you?"
She regretted the words almost the minute they left her mouth, and she didn't dare look at him. He went so still, she couldn't be sure he was even breathing.
His arms tightened around her for an instant, and then he sighed. One of his large hands trailed slowly up her side, until he reached her neck. He gently massaged the knot of tension away.
"Look at me, sweetheart."
The growly whisper was impossible to ignore. She forced her gaze upwards, and the grim determination on Grisha's face took her breath away.
"Who hurt you, Neeve? Give me the name of the fucking bastard, and I'll tear him limb from limb."
The steely determination in his eyes, and the controlled, almost careful, way his chest rose and fell sent shivers down her spine. The tight grip he had on his emotions and the quiet way he studied her made her feel as though she was the prey he was about to pounce on. Rather than fear coursing through her veins, it was an entirely different emotion making her breath hitch and her nipples tighten. He noticed of course. He seemed to notice everything, and his gaze dropped briefly to her breasts. They ached under that quick visual as though he had run his hands over them, and Neeve shook her head.
"I wouldn't give any man the satisfaction of being able to hurt me. I told you, I'm not a sub."
Grisha closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them they glittered with barely suppressed fury. His smile didn't reach his eyes.
"If that is truly the way you feel, then why are you still sitting on my lap? Should you not be running away screaming?" He lifted his hands away from her, as if to make his point. "Yet here you sit. Why is that I wonder?"
"I … I… I'm not. … I mean…" Neeve hated how wobbly her voice sounded. Why was she still sitting on his lap?
"I'm sorry." The words flew from her mouth before she knew she was going to say them. "I shouldn't have said that. I don't know why I did, really."
Grisha nodded, once. That was his only reaction. Hands placed on the couch either side of his legs he didn't move, just watched her with that unwavering attention that pinned her, as though he had tied her to him with invisible bonds.
"Thank you for taking care of this." She lifted her wrist and tried to smile at him, but her attempt wavered as his expression darkened. He took hold of her hand and turned it over. He bent his head and pressed a kiss into her palm. His hot breath sent tingles up her arm, and she clenched her hand into a fist. He kissed her knuckles, one at a time, before he pressed his lips against the bandage. He licked a path up her inner arm, leaving the most delicious tingles in its wake, and Neeve could almost forget who this man was and what he stood for. When he finally raised his head and looked at her, Neeve struggled to draw breath into her lungs.
"Why do you feel the need to mutilate this beautiful skin, sweetheart?"
"I … you wouldn't understand. And it's none of your business."
He raised an eyebrow and smiled—a slow, sexy as sin, I-can-see-straight-through-your-bullshit-smile—that broke through every one of Neeve's carefully constructed layers of witty comeback, years of pretense, and cut right into the pain she carried with her, lest she ever forget what happened.
The whispered statement hung between them, and Neeve shook her head.
"I don't know you. How can I trust you?"
"Because sometimes it's easier to tell someone you don't know." He cupped her chin and dug his fingers into her skin hard enough to hurt. "And because I get the whole need to mark skin thing, but you need to do it in a safe manner. I leave marks that fade, never scar. Marks that tease, and arouse, and get you so damn turned on, you'll have the hottest sex you ever had. Marks that will proclaim I own you, at least whilst in a scene. Think on that, sweetheart, next time you stare into the flame."
He let go of her so suddenly she felt bereft. As smoothly as he'd placed her on his lap, he moved her off it, until she was sitting on the couch looking up at him. He pulled a card out of his trouser pocket and placed into her hand. He leant down to do so, and Neeve's stomach flipped over as he drew so close their breaths mingled. Her eyes fluttered shut in anticipation of his kiss—a kiss she suddenly craved with every fiber of her being—a kiss that never came.
"Look at me, sweetheart." His lips hovered over hers, when she opened her eyes, and he smiled. Arms either side of her body, he obliterated her view of anything but him, but her senses drank in the sight and feel of his powerful body. He'd rolled the sleeves of his shirt up, and opened a few more buttons on his shirt, exposing a smattering of dark hair on his chest, and Neeve's mouth watered. The contrast of the white shirt against his dark skin mesmerized her. She took in the play of muscles as he straightened away from her. With his tie loose around his neck, and his hands now pushed into his trouser pockets, he was the image of disheveled elegance.
"When you're ready to trust me, look me up, Neeve."
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