“I think…” I began, hating the hesitancy that instantly crept into my voice. “I’m going to…” Glancing down, I realized I’d need a shirt if I was going to head down and out of the building. A shirt that hadn’t been ripped in two.
He looked over, his dark gaze beckoning. “Come here, Kara.”
I exhaled with frustration. “Declan, I don’t know what’s happening here. I don’t know anything when I’m around you. It’s like I completely lose my mind.”
He continued to watch me, his eyes smoldering. To a casual observer he might have looked like a man of leisure relaxing in his den. But I saw the tightly coiled heat, the animal within waiting, demanding more. My pulse jumped.
“Come here,” he repeated, his voice silky with sin.
“Declan.” I reached internally for the script I’d prepared in the bathroom. “This has all been a mistake. A big, crazy mistake. I really can’t do this.”
“Kara.” His voice was rough and deep. I loved the way he said my name, a carnal caress.
“I can’t think when I’m around you!” I cried.
“You’re thinking too much.”
I gave a shaky laugh. “I don’t think that’s my problem.” Caught in the burning heat of his gaze, I felt breathless.
Why did my legs betray me, taking steps over to him? And why could I already feel heat building in me, a pulsing throb deep in my core?
He put his drink down on a table, watching me the whole time. I stood facing him, trembling and exposed. He stood close, so close I could almost feel him as his eyes raked over me. I felt stripped naked though I still wore my skirt and bra. I shook slightly, half with fear, half anticipation.
He didn’t touch me, but his words stroked me as he whispered in my ear, “You need to come, Kara. You’re so close. You need it so much.” Then he brushed a knuckle so gentle, so light against the lace of my bra over my nipple. My knees nearly buckled from the slightest contact.
“That’s it,” he coaxed me. “Let yourself feel this. Let yourself have what you need.” He brought his lips to my throat, kissing and licking me where I felt so sensitive. Then he stood back, watching me pant.
He appraised me as if I were his acquisition, his to do whatever he wished for one whole week. He fixed on the rise and swell of my breasts. Under his scrutiny, I could feel the ache and pull, my traitorous nipples peaking again, answering his desire with unmistakable arousal.
Low and controlled, he said, “We’re going to begin your training now, Kara. You’ve been naughty. Now you’re going to take your punishment.”
His words made me gasp. And more. My brain wanted to fight, but my sex clenched, growing slick in response. I’d never felt like such a lunatic, such a gulf between thought and action.
Not since six years ago. Declan made me that way. He captivated me like no other.
“Hands on the back of the couch. Now.” The intensity of his gaze, the raw power throbbing through his muscled body made me quiver. This made no sense. I had no idea what he would do to me.
But I couldn’t resist. I never could with him. With Declan, my answer had always been yes. No matter that it didn’t make sense, no matter the risk, everything in me said,
The word slipped out from my parted lips, barely a whisper, stealing out into the space between us, binding me to him.
Mashing up an old banana into a chipped mixing bowl, I told myself this was totally normal. Choosing to stay home on a hot Saturday night in late June to bake banana bread—that was what most 18-year-olds were doing tonight, right? I definitely wasn’t losing my mind, blowing off my boyfriend to bake bread like a 1950s housewife. And I most definitely wasn’t thinking about walking down to Declan’s cabin—whom I happened to know was also at the ranch tonight—and using fresh-baked banana bread as a pathetic ploy to go visit. Definitely not.
Mandy had called me a couple of hours ago, pissed off as usual. Seemed I couldn’t do anything right these days.
“You’re not coming?” Her voice had reached an octave previously only recorded from dolphins. “I thought we had a deal!”
She had a lame plan to try to seduce one of Bruce’s friends who’d been sleeping with some other girl who was supposedly her friend. I was supposed to be a decoy in some way. I hadn’t listened too closely. You couldn’t get too involved with Mandy and her schemes.
“I have a headache,” I’d offered lamely. Same excuse I’d given Bruce. He’d taken it fine, told me to take a couple Advil and get some rest. He really wasn’t a bad guy. And, honestly, he wasn’t all that head-over-heels for me, either. He was heading off to U Montana in a month and in his head he was already there. I wasn’t putting out. Prom night hadn’t gone down as he’d hoped. So really I was just his hometown girl, expiration date almost passed.
We were about to go our separate ways, and though we both knew it was ending, neither of us made the effort to declare it. What was the point? He was only around for a few more weeks and those weeks were all about hanging out with our mutual friends. What was the point of upsetting things, turning over the apple cart when you didn’t have to? It wasn’t as if I was going to date anyone else anyway.
Declan had absolutely no interest. I knew that. He’d made that perfectly clear. I’d seen him in town the other day with yet another skank. He was a regular skank magnet. Whether they found him or he found them, I didn’t know, but whenever I saw him out and about he had some trashy girl draped all over him.
The one I’d seen him with the other night had spider webs tattooed all down the side of her leg. Spider webs. Did Declan like that? Well, clearly he did because he had his tongue down her throat. Mandy plus a couple of other girlfriends and I had been driving around, living it up like we did most nights. Declan and the spider web girl had been outside a local dive, making out against his truck in the parking lot.
We’d all gagged and pretend barfed like it was the grossest, lamest thing we’d ever seen. Only
I actually wished it was me pressed up against his truck.
I was clearly losing my mind.
I poured the bread batter into a pan, then popped it into the oven. These basic tasks I could still do. It was everything else I sucked at.
I had to forget entirely about that mortifying, unspeakably embarrassing incident in Declan’s truck. It had happened a month ago. But I still thought about it all the time.
Had he actually taken me over his knee and spanked me? Given me, an 18-almost-19-year-old a spanking? Like I was a toddler?
And here’s where I made myself blush even standing alone in the privacy of my own kitchen. My stomach flipped, my hands started to shake when I remembered how much I had liked it. I’d loved it.
The feel of his rough, warm palm coming down on my ass. How strong he was, the way his bicep had bulged under the sleeve of his t-shirt. His smell. The chafe of his jeans against my bare thighs.
The shock and sting of that smack, when his hand had first come down. Tears had sprung to my eyes. My lips had parted, no sound coming out at first. I didn’t know what was happening. I was furious, ashamed.
And then. Then the heat built up. I could hear his breathing, rough and ragged. I could hear the low sound he made when his hand came down on my skin, a deep huh in his throat. It was just us, inside the cab of his truck, and I was completely under his control. He had me right where he wanted me and I was helpless.
Before I could think, before I could process anything that was happening, my body started responding. My heartbeat picked up, my breathing accelerated, my hands grabbed onto the armrest in his truck. As he smacked me full across the ass, I pressed into him and felt his hardness, the length of him straining against the crotch of his jeans. I wriggled against him, wanting to feel more, needing it.
I tried not to think about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. His hand on me, the pressure of his palm. How his initial act of frustration and annoyance had suddenly turned into intimacy. The low, throaty moan that had escaped from my throat.
His hand had frozen. I’d frozen too, barely breathing. It was as if both of us could still hear my moan, like it was echoing in his truck. And then he’d thrown me away like I repulsed him. The moment was over before it had even begun. He’d driven us back to the ranch, not a word exchanged between us.