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Brutal Royal: A Mafia Bully Romance by Tessa Morgan – Serialization (Part Two)

Did you miss Chapters 1-12? You can find them here.

Chapter Thirteen

Owen

The other Royals are clustered around the south entrance to the campus, smoking, chatting, drinking coffee. With them all dressed in their uniforms, Liam’s long hair up in a pristine man-bun, I’m flooded with a sense of familiarity that’s both comforting and smothering.

This is why I wanted to get here as soon as possible. I don’t give a shit about arriving late to class—I have a 4.0 GPA and that’s not changing anytime soon—but I didn’t want to miss this.

It’s another one of our traditions ever since we moved into the Walsh House together. We meet up here before classes begin, and stay just late enough to make an entrance without being penalized by our professors.

I need this today more than ever. And I would have been here sooner, if I’d gotten more sleep last night. But I spent the whole evening tossing and turning, because I had Evie fucking Larsen on my mind. When I did fall asleep, I slept straight through my alarm.

“Christ, finally,” Liam calls out when he sees me. “I thought you were shacking up with Wilder.”

I notice he’s not here, but we’re not all that close, so I couldn’t be bothered. “My first class is only in two hours.”

Sterling offers me a hand. “Well then, thank you for gracing us with your presence, Your Majesty.”

“Fuck off,” I growl even as I shake his hand, waiting for them to comment about Evie. Unless she took the long way around, she’d have to have walked past them to enter the campus.

But no one says anything.

Liam hands me a coffee. “Hair of the dog.”

I eventually joined them at the impromptu football match late yesterday. Judging from the amount of booze and coke everyone had consumed, it’s no wonder Wilder couldn’t crawl out of bed this morning. It’s probably why Liam is still wearing his sunglasses, and Oz hasn’t said a word, instead choosing to lean against the wall and smoke a cigarette.

Sterling is one of those guys who’s even cheerier when he’s got a hangover.

If I’d had more to drink, I’d definitely have slept better. But I didn’t trust myself to stay away from Evie after more than two beers and a shot of whiskey.

The coffee Liam hands me tastes like it has half a flask of whiskey in it. “Christ,” I mutter, grimacing. “Hair of the dog? Tastes like you put the whole thing in here, nose to fucking tail.”

“Um… excuse me?”

“I think he meant it’ll put hair on your chest,” Sterling says through a laugh.

“I’ve got more hair on my chest than you do,” I tell him, cocking an eyebrow.

“Yeah, but dude, I shave for a reason.”

“Um… sorry… Owen?”

It’s only when the other Royals turn to look at the space behind me that I realize the soft voice isn’t in my head.

I turn and stare at Willow, possibly a touch more vehemently than she deserves.

For a moment there, I thought it was Evie. That she’d come to apologize for being such a bitch to me.

“What?” There’s a snap to my voice which Willow somehow fails to latch onto.

“Um, I’m sorry to bother you, but it’s just… I’m in charge of the RSVPs for the Firefly Ball, and, uh, I don’t think, I mean, you probably sent it in, but for some reason I don’t have your… your RSVP?”

I’ve never seen someone look so reluctant to speak in their entire life. I’m not sure why Willow keeps signing up for all this college administration shit when it’s obvious she’s an introvert.

Now Evie, on the other hand, she might be a bit shy when other people are around, but she’s got no issue telling me exactly what’s on her mind.

She thinks I walk on water?

No, wait. That wasn’t quite what she said. She said I thought I walked on water.

Jesus, what a bitch.

And then she has the nerve to complain about Pinecrest?

“So, uh, have you… you’ve sent it in, right? The RSVP?”

I snap out of my reverie with a frown when I realize I was thinking about Evie.

Again.

“No.”

Willow doesn’t seem to know what to do with this information. “Uh…”

“Listen, Hope, how about you scamper out of here? Owen will send it when he sends it,” Liam says, stepping up beside me. We both tower over the poor girl, and she takes a hurried step back like she’s worried we’re going to crush her underfoot.

“Oh, yes, of course. It’s just, the deadline was on Friday, and, uh…”

I stop listening to what she’s saying, because a head of wild white hair just appeared in my vision. It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t stop thinking about Evie after climbing off that golf cart. When I was getting that brush out of her hair, it was impossible not to feel how soft it was. How good it smelled.

She’s walking up to the entrance, her head down, an angry scowl on her face. Her bow is hanging from her hand, and from the way it’s rumpled, I’m assuming she tried to tie it and failed. She must have gone back for it; that’s why she hasn’t passed by here yet.

“Dalton!”

“What?” I frown at Liam, and his eyebrows arch over the top of his sunglasses.

“Willow says she needs to know if you’re bringing a plus one, then she’ll leave you alone.”

Evie is almost in earshot. She happens to look up, and flinches when we make eye contact.

Fuck knows why I do it. I guess I’m still pissed at her for assuming she knows a fucking thing about my life.

I raise my voice. “Did you forget you’re coming with me?”

“Me?” Willow squeaks.

“Yeah. We spoke about it on the weekend. You said you’d love to come to the Firefly Ball with me.”

“Oh… uh… wow. I don’t… are you sure—?”

Evie’s mouth tightens, and she makes a point of looking away as she walks past.

“Hey, Evie,” Sterling calls out. “I’m still looking for a date for the dance. You in?”

Evie turns to glance at him, but her eyes harden as soon as she spots me looking. She lifts her chin and walks away with a swing of her hips that has me watching her until she disappears inside the campus grounds.

“Uh… Owen?”

I turn back to Willow. “What?”

“Are you… serious?” Willow’s brown eyes are glittering.

“Yeah, man,” Sterling asks beside me, much quieter. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah, why not.” My parents have been hounding me about my date for weeks now. Might as well be Willow. According to them, a Dalton wouldn’t dare show up to an event like that without a plus-one. I have a feeling my parents won’t be thrilled with my choice… then again, they’ve never been happy about anything I’ve done thus far in my life, so nothing new there.

This’ll just be another item to add to their long list of disappointments.

Chapter Fourteen

Evie

I made the mistake of thinking my day couldn’t possibly get worse. I guess the universe takes that kind of thinking as a challenge. Like, oh… you think this shit is bad? Hold my beer. Just wait.

Turns out, I missed orientation hour. All the freshmen are walking around with these cool-looking notebooks and thermal cups with the university’s crest on it. Everyone’s walking around in pairs, exploring the campus and figuring out what’s where.

But me? I haven’t even had coffee yet, my hair’s a mess, and I still have toothpaste on my fucking shirt. When someone eventually tells me how to find the assembly hall, there are only two TAs left, and they’ve already taken down pretty much all the orientation stuff.

At least I get a pen.

I’m furious, my chest heaving as I stalk down the hall looking for a bathroom. I need to pee, or wash my face, or have a good sob… I don’t even know. But this place is a labyrinth, and for some reason every hallway is deserted.

Guess everyone’s in class. Where you’re supposed to be.

My phone rings in my blazer pocket. I draw it out, staring at the screen for a second before my brain fires on.

“Dad!” My voice hitches, and I quickly swallow down whatever else I was going to say. At the sound of my father’s accented voice, a sharp pang hits me. I totally forgot to call him back. What’s wrong with me? I fight it for a moment before accepting my fate and sinking down to the carpet.

“I’ve been worried,” Dad says. “You never called.”

“I’m so sorry. I got so caught up with everything. My dorm room flooded, and—”

Flooded? Where are you staying?”

“Oh, it’s fine, I found a place.”

“On campus?” Dad asks warily. “It is safe?”

“Yeah,” I reply, a tad too fast.

I actually have no idea just how safe the Walsh House actually is, especially with Owen just down the hall. But that’s not something my father needs to worry about. I’m dealing with it.

At least, I think I am.

“And how is school?”

“Um… it’s okay. Big. You’d love the campus. The architecture is beautiful.” My father’s a structural engineer, and he loves looking at old buildings—probably because he can see right through to the bones. He can go on at length about trusses, and arches, and a lot of other stuff I’ll never understand.

“And your place where you’re staying? It is on campus?”

“Yeah. Just a short drive from the main building.”

“Good, good.” He lets out a breath.

“And your place?” I ask. “How is the apartment?”

“It is… structurally sound.” He says this through a laugh, but I know he’s not joking. “Will you come visit me on the weekend?”

“Oh, yeah, of course.” I hesitate. “I’ll just have to find someone to take me to town.”

“I’ll send a cab.”

“Okay. Saturday?”

“Sounds good. I look forward to hearing all about your classes.”

One side of my mouth pulls into a smile. “Can’t wait to see you.”

“You be safe, Evie. And you be good.” The emphasis on the last word is unmistakable.

My mouth twists. “Yeah, Dad. Of course.”

I put the phone down without waiting for his reply. Now I remember why I haven’t phoned him yet. Because that’s what he does every time.

You be good. Like he’s telling me to behave myself.

This is all your fault.

I thump my head into the wall behind me repeatedly, eyes closed as I will that sour thought out of my mind.

All your fault. All your fault.

“Most kids around here are trying to get rid of their headaches, not give themselves a migraine.”

My eyes pop open, and I glare up at Owen. “For a big school like this, I sure run into you a lot. Are you following me?”

He cocks an eyebrow. “My apologies. Next time I’ll avoid the main hallways. Or maybe you should let me know in advance where you’re going so I can make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Owen starts to walk past as I mutter, “As if I have any fucking clue where anything is.”

He hesitates a moment, and I will him to just keep walking. He backs up a few steps until he’s in front of me again. “You missed orientation.”

I throw up my hands. “No, Owen, I’m just sitting here hoping someone will toss a coin in my direction so I have some lunch money.”

He scans me up and down. “You look the part.”

I give him the finger. “Fuck you.”

“I mean, you could at least have tried to tie your bow.”

I grab the strip of satin out of my blazer pocket. “This?” I rush to my feet, bundling up the soft fabric before shoving my fist into his chest. “Here. Take it. Since you’re so fucking obsessed with it.”

Then I’m stalking down the hall again, trying to ignore how full my bladder is.

“You’ll get a warning.”

I throw up my hands, refusing to look back at him. “Like I care?”

Despite how far I’ve gone, I can still hear him growl in frustration. “Evie!”

I ignore him. My furiously scanning eyes spot a bathroom sign up ahead.

Thank God.

I was about to burst.

As I reach for the bathroom handle Owen grabs my shoulder and spins me around to face him.

This is one of those days I should have stayed in bed. Hell, I could be back at the Walsh House right now, snoring away. Or in the kitchen downstairs with Kat, both of us crunching on cereal in our PJs or something.

But no, the universe is all like, “Fuck you, Evie Larsen. Here, have some more of this asshole you can’t stand.”

And here he is, in all his smug, arrogant, egotistical fucking glory.

So, I slap him.

Again.

It seems the only rational response when my bladder is aching and I’m seconds away from breaking down into tears.

When he faces me again, a hank of black hair hanging over his eye, I realize it was a big mistake.

Like, massive.

But he doesn’t try to grab me when I slip into the bathroom. Thankfully, although there isn’t a lock on this door, there is one on the inside of the stall I rush into.

I lock it, and back up, staring at the door like I expect it to burst open anyway.

Seconds tick by.

Nothing.

Eventually my bladder starts throbbing, so I have to pee. But through the stop-start flood-trickle that goes on for the next few minutes, I’m straining to hear if Owen’s going to hold me accountable for laying a hand on him again… or if he’s going to walk away.

I flush, my fingers shaking when I have to unlock the stall to get out. I wash my hands, muttering to myself. But thankfully, the girls’ bathroom is as empty now as when I came inside a few minutes ago.

“Fuck!” I swallow down a scream when I step into the hallway and see Owen leaning against the wall right outside the bathroom door with his arms crossed over his chest. “The fuck?”

I note the faint red mark on his face before reluctantly meeting his eyes.

He seems unperturbed by what just happened. Perhaps I was in there long enough that he’d had enough time to cool down?

Owen straightens, cocks his head. “Follow me.”

“Um, no.” There’s a hint of a laugh in my voice at the ludicrous suggestion.

He turns back to give me a long-suffering stare. I’ve become quite used to that in my almost two decades on this earth. “You want to know where you’re going? Let me show you.”

“You’ll take me to my class?” I start following as he walks away, but I’m keeping my distance.

“Even better.”

My mind spins. I don’t know what the hell he could possibly mean. But there’s a part of me that wants to find out. I feel strangely calm now. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve reached the eye of the storm, or if slapping Owen was as cathartic as a few months’ therapy sessions.

Only one way to find out.

But Owen doesn’t take me to my class. We walk down a long hallway, exiting the building a few minutes later, then follow a cobbled path running parallel to the outside of the campus. It ends at an ornate gate barring entry to one of the four towers positioned at the corners of the main campus building.

There’s a keypad beside the gate’s lock, and Owen swipes a gold-and-black card over it. I hear the faint snick of the electronic lock opening, and then Owen pushes open the gate and beckons me inside.

“Um…”

He cocks an eyebrow at me. “Are you scared of heights?”

Tower. Heights. Oh…

“This a clock tower or something?”

Owen says nothing, just gestures for me to go ahead of him.

My heartbeat picks up pace at the thought of walking through that gate. I’m not scared of heights. Hitting the ground is what scares me. There’s no coming back from that shit.

But I’ve also never been inside a clock tower before, and I can just imagine how magnificent the view must be from up there, looking out over the forest.

Goddammit, why him? Why couldn’t it be Kat inviting me up there, or some nice, cute guy I met during orientation?

I draw a quick, steeling breath, and rush through the gate before I can change my mind.

Fuck Owen. I’m not going to let him scare me into relinquishing any part of my college experience.

I might as well make the most of the shit show my life has become, right?

My entire body flinches when the gate slams closed behind us.

I force myself not to look back as I take the stairs. The first winding is fine, but by the second turn, I’m all too aware of how high we already are. I hold onto the railing as I ascend, my stomach tightening, my breaths coming short and fast. Far above, there’s a wooden ceiling and a small landing with a door.

About halfway up, I realize that Owen can probably see straight up my skirt. I grab the hem, pinching it tight around my thighs as my cheeks burn.

Owen lets out a dark chuckle behind me, and I give him the finger without looking back.

I cling to the top railing when I finally reach the landing, and dare to peek over the edge. My heart kicks me in the ribs when I see how far down it is, and I swoon back, pressing my back to the rough wooden door.

“You’ve come this far,” Owen says as he steps up to join me on the landing. “Don’t you want to go all the way?”

My jaw clenches. “With you? Never.”

He chuckles again, a tiny gleam in his steel eyes as he opens the door. I find it strange that it would be unlocked, but I guess you’d have to have a keycard to get past the gate below. Maybe the school doesn’t think locking this door would serve a purpose other than annoying the janitor who has to come up here to clean.

“Oh.” It’s a stupid thing to say, but it’s all I can summon when I step inside the tower.

It’s not a clock tower at all. This space is open to the elements, barring a low wall that runs all the way around, and a handful of pillars keeping the steep spire of the roof in place. Most of the structural things—my dad would be cringing if I ever said that out loud to him—are centered around the enormous bronze bell hanging from thick chains and ropes.

My eyes barely land on the bell before my gaze is dragged to the view beyond.

“Shit. That’s…”

“Breathtaking?”

I don’t even flinch when I realize how close he’s standing to me. There isn’t all that much room up here anyway, so I can’t exactly expect him to keep his distance.

Now that I’ve had a chance to take it all in, I realize there’s a fine mesh fitted to the openings along all sides of the towers. Some of those edges are peeling away from the brickwork, but most of it is still sturdy enough.

When I realize why it’s there, my heart drops all the way to the fucking ground. “People have tried to jump off here?” I whisper.

Owen’s body brushes mine as he comes to stand beside the window. “They didn’t try. They succeeded.”

My stomach turns over, and I give a hard swallow. “Wow. That’s…”

Owen turns, grabs my sleeve, and tugs me close. If terror hadn’t clamped a great big hand over my throat, I’d have screamed. But Owen isn’t planning to rip away that mesh and toss me out to plummet to the quad below.

He tucks me in beside him and points. “See how the building is shaped like a hollow rectangle?”

I nod, trying to work spit back into my mouth. He’s so warm, so solid. It’s difficult to feel nervous about heights when it’s so obvious that he’d never let me fall.

Huh. Never? Not even if you slapped him again?

“That section there? Those are the classrooms, the labs, and the two main lecture halls. The bigger rooms are on the ground level, the smaller classrooms on the second story.”

I have to admit—if grudgingly—that he’s right. Seeing everything from up here makes it seem silly that I’d gotten myself lost. All those long hallways? I should just have carried on with them until I reached a corner. Every corner would take me into a new section of the campus.

“Those are the girls’ dorms, and there are the guys’. That other side is where the cafeteria and administration offices are.”

My eyes skip ahead, to the forest and the white-topped mountains far in the distance. A breeze finds its way through the mesh, and I fill my lungs with the fresh country air.

It’s amazing how quickly things change. A few minutes ago, I was furious with my father for sending me out here to the middle of nowhere. Now I’m wondering if maybe, just maybe, I was overreacting. On the surface, Pinecrest is a magnificent place. If I can find a way to live alongside the townies, then maybe happiness wouldn’t be a dirty word anymore.

“If you’re ever lost, look out a window and find that oak tree. You can use it to get your bearings. Do you see it?”

I blink, coming back to the moment.

Why is the air suddenly filled with Owen’s scent? I glance aside, and realize he’s turned to face me.

Oh.

I tip my head back, staring up into his gorgeous, enigmatic eyes. “Do you see it?” he asks again, quieter this time, barely a murmur.

I shake my head. He gently grasps my chin and angles my face so that I’m staring down into the quad. His arm reaches around me to point. “There.”

His body is flush with my back, effectively boxing me in against the mesh.

My pulse quickens. “I see it…”

“So I won’t find you in the hallway again, banging your head against the wall because you’re lost?”

“No.”

“Good.” Instead of releasing my jaw, Owen trails his fingers down the front of my throat. That gentle caress sends goosebumps rippling down my arms. My belly tightens, my breath coming in short, fast bursts. “You don’t want to get lost in this town, Evie. You might never find your way out again.”

Why do the things he says always sound like some low-key threat on my life? Does he really hate me that much?

I turn, trying to push past him, but he grabs the window ledge on either side of me and leans in, blocking me. I tilt my head back, glaring up at him, refusing to show him how nervous he makes me. “I’m not a thief,” I tell him. “So stop treating me like a fucking scumbag.”

“So what were you doing in Liam’s room that night?”

“I was getting my bag. The one Kat said I could keep there.”

“An innocent person wouldn’t have hidden under the bed.”

“I was high on drugs, so forgive me for acting irrationally.”

His mouth tightens, eyes narrowing as he scans my face like he’s trying to hunt out the lie in my words. He won’t find it, obviously, because it’s the truth. But damn, it looks like he’s trying really hard.

“So there’s no reason for you to keep treating me like shit.” I bite the inside of my lip to stop from saying more.

“What if I’m just a bad person?” he whispers. “What if it’s not in my nature to be nice?”

I huff out a laugh, crossing my arms as I look away. He’s toying with me now—it’s obvious from the mischievous gleam in his eyes. “No wonder you didn’t have a date to the dance.” I keep the words flippant. I’m not actively trying to hurt his feelings; I’m just providing a much-needed reality check.

But the omnipotent Owen Dalton doesn’t seem to see it that way.

“I want to go with Willow,” he growls.

I cock my eyebrow at him. “Yeah? Because it sounded like she had no idea what you were talking about.”

There’s no impish light in his eyes anymore. It’s been replaced with annoyance. Arrogance.

Yeah, that’s more like it.

This is the Owen I know and hate, not the one who was acting like we were on a first date, showing me oak trees and magnificent views of the mountains and shit.

This makes sense.

“I’m going to be late for class,” I tell him, again trying to push past.

This time he lets me go, and relief floods through me. I swam right into the shark’s mouth and back out again, without those razor-sharp teeth slicing me apart.

I’m getting good at this.

At least, that’s what I tell myself. And I guess the universe doesn’t like someone like me getting ahead of myself, because Owen calls out, “I’m not done with you yet.”

My footsteps falter before I can make myself walk again. My heart starts pounding, my stomach twisting uneasily, but I keep going, making a beeline for the door leading out of the bell tower.

The closer I get, the harder my heart beats, the faster my breath comes.

I’m convinced I’m going to make it. My hand curls around the handle and pulls.

But Owen’s hand crashes into the door, slamming it shut just as I open it. “I didn’t give you permission to leave,” he grates.

Fuck. Fuck!

I try to duck under his arm, but he grabs me by the hair and throws me back against the door. I crash face-first into the wood, the impact knocking my breath out of me. “Owen!”

He ignores both my panicked bleat and the way I dig my nails into his wrists. “There’s something you don’t seem to understand about me,” he says, tightening the grip in my hair until tears spring into my eyes. “I believe you get what you give.”

“Yeah?” It’s a struggle to stop my voice shaking, but I manage. “So do you like people being assholes to you? Because by your reasoning, that’s only happening because you’re such a douchebag.”

I know I should have kept my mouth shut, but it seems my survival instinct has temporarily abandoned me.

Owen lets out a growl that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and flattens his body against mine. “I don’t like you, Evie Larsen.”

“Feeling’s mutual,” I say, my words mingling with a groan of pain as Owen twists his hand in my hair again.

“I don’t think you’re as nice as you keep making yourself out to be.”

“Says the asshole pinning me to the wall.”

He lets out a dark chuckle. “That smart mouth must’ve gotten you into a lot of trouble back home.”

If you only fucking knew.

“Let go.”

“Not until I’ve balanced the scales.”

What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

I change tactics, hoping something will trigger whatever ounce of mercy is still left in his degenerate soul. “You’re hurting me…”

“That’s the point,” he hisses in my ear. “See, Evie, you say shit like I walk on water, and then think you can go around slapping people without getting punished in return. Isn’t that a touch hypocritical?”

Well, damn. He’s got you there.

I swallow, my mind working furiously to try to get me out of this situation. “I didn’t know you felt that way,” I keep my tone as civil as possible. “I’m sorry for slapping you, Owen.”

He says nothing for a moment, like he’s considering my apology. He might even have accepted it… if I’d kept my damn mouth shut. But it’s infuriating that he’s so much stronger than me. He’s an arrogant, self-centered, egotistical playboy who it’s obvious no one in this town likes. But they hang around with him because he’s a Dalton.

If Owen knew me, he’d know that I don’t fall for shit like that. I take people at face value. And yeah, while that means I sometimes fall for scam artists like my ex-boyfriend, the truth always wins out.

Eventually.

So just keep your mouth shut, Evie, and bide your—

“Believe me, Owen,” I add in a sweet voice. “I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known you were such a delicate little flower.”

Time stops. It’s just for a breath, but it feels like a lifetime.

Then Owen exhales slowly, his warm breath painting heat over the side of my face. When I dare peek up at him, my cheek still pressed against the door, my entire body goes stiff.

Why the hell didn’t you just shut up?

“I was going to let you go with a warning,” he growls. “But you wouldn’t know respect if it bit you on the ass.” As if to illustrate, Owen grabs a handful of my flesh and squeezes.

I’m not sore anymore, thank fuck, but it still hurts. I hold back a whimper, but barely. Instead of trying to pull his hand out of my hair, I reach back and try to claw out his eyes.

He releases my hair, grabs my wrists, and slams them to the wood above my head.

When he kicks my legs open, I scream. This, however, doesn’t seem to faze him. If anything, it spurs him on.

He keeps my wrists bound with one hand, the other grabbing the hem of my skirt and yanking it up.

“If you wanted to see my panties, you should just have asked,” I spit out, wriggling furiously to try to get loose.

This is so ridiculous. I’m legit going to start carrying pepper spray around with me. I let out a strangled scream when he tucks the hem of my skirt behind its waistband, baring my undies.

They’re blue with yellow polka dots.

In my defense, I didn’t expect to have anyone staring at them.

“Cute,” he says, grabbing my ass with his free hand and giving me another toe-curling hard squeeze. “Now… do they come off, or stay on?”

I bite my lip so hard I can taste copper in my mouth. He won’t lure me into talking back to him, earning myself more of whatever punishment he’s already got planned. I need to conserve my energy. He can’t keep holding me this tightly, and the instant he loosens his grip, I’m going to make him rue the day he ever laid eyes on me.

Knee to the groin.

Knee to the groin.

And possibly a foot to the stomach while he’s lying curled up in pain on the floor.

Despite how hard I’m biting down, the edges of my mouth still manage to curl up in an evil smile as I imagine how much I’m going to make him suffer for this humiliation he’s putting me through.

“Oh… you think this is funny?” The tip of his finger slides along the hem of my panties, from my hip down to between my legs. His touch sends tingles through my flesh—all the way from my belly button to my damn asshole.

Fuck… fuck.

“I think it’s hilarious you think you’ll get away with this.”

Owen leans in close. “Have you told anyone about your last punishment?”

Yeah, that’s the beauty of shame. The worse it is, the harder it is to tell anyone about it.

He grabs me again, his fingers so close to my pussy that it starts pulsing in response.

It’s amazing to me how the body can misread a simple situation like this.

I try to pull out of his grasp, but he’s so close to me that there’s barely an inch to move. And I quickly stop trying when I feel the throb of his hard cock against my ass.

“I didn’t think so.” He tugs at my ass, parting my cheeks. Arousal spills out of me and soaks into my underwear.

Oh, God.

Owen presses into me again, and this time I know he wants to make a point of showing off his cock. I guess he can’t help it—it must warm his black heart that it’s so fucking huge.

“Will you just get it over with already?” I force myself to look at him over my shoulder. His eyes lock on mine, and the raw heat in them make my knees go weak. But I force strength into my words, tilt my chin up, and whisper, “Or do you have issues with performance?” I drop my eyes to the general direction of his dick, and when I look back, the blood in my veins congeals with panic.

He doesn’t look angry anymore. In fact, he looks strangely calm.

Eye of the storm calm.

Fuck. You and your big fucking mouth.

“Off, then,” he says.

What the hell is he talking ab—

Owen serves up a heap of steaming indignity with a side order of fabric burn as he rips my underwear down my butt. With his feet and legs between mine, there’s no chance of me closing my thighs before my panties are bunched around my knees.

He ignores my indignant gasp, but from the soft growl he lets out, I’m guessing that’s because he’s too busy staring at my ass.

I don’t know if it’s the yellow polka dots that he finds so insulting to his senses or what, but for some reason he feels the need to use his shoe to shove my panties all the way to the ground. Where he promptly stands on them with both feet.

I’ve never experienced anything as offensive in my life. That he’d so casually desecrate my undies puts a fucking pit in my stomach.

You’re not dealing with some arrogant dick. This guy has issues.

Owen forces my legs further apart, until I can feel air circulating lewdly between my legs. Heat crawls up my neck, blooming roses on my cheeks. He massages my ass again, his fingers inching ever closer to my tingling pussy.

I don’t know what I’ll do if he touches me. Scream? Moan?

For some reason, I’m desperate to find out.

“Stop,” I whisper frantically, my mind reeling with confusion. “Owen, please, sto—”

His first slap is light, almost playful. The next few aren’t.

I start off yelping like a small animal caught in a trap—which I am. Then I’m gasping like a hooked fish—which is exactly what I feel like.

The worst part—the absolute worst part—is that every slap Owen delivers sends a hard clenching ache through my core. When he stops for breath, or maybe to work out a kink in his arm—who the fuck knows—my body cringes in relief from the onslaught.

But my pussy clenches… and I drip right onto his fucking shoes.

I whimper with shame, my eyes squeezing shut.

Owen makes a sound that’s half growl, half purr. “Jesus, Evie,” he whispers, trailing his fingertips down the curve of my ass, heading straight for my soaked pussy. “I haven’t even touched you yet.”

Yet?

My clit’s already throbbing, my core clutching at nothing. Another pulse goes through me, and more arousal trickles down the inside of my thigh. My eyes squeeze tears onto my lashes as I bow my head, a sob building inside my chest. I’m so desperate to keep it inside that I stop moving, stop breathing, stop living.

But just for a second.

Because then Owen leans in and kisses the side of my mouth.

Chapter Fifteen

Owen

My balls are so tight, it feels like I’m seconds away from coming in my goddamn pants. I’ve never been this turned on in my entire fucking life—and I’ve got some seriously fucked-up porn saved on my hard drive.

But what just happened? Evie creaming herself on my fucking shoes after a few slaps to her ass?

It’s like I’m trapped in a surreal fantasy. Shit like this doesn’t happen in real life. Real people think this shit is fucked up… they don’t get turned on by it.

Not like I do.

I lean in, drawn by some strange, indefinable magnetism. I barely hold myself back from kissing her full on the lips, instead brushing the side of her mouth.

The awful choking sound she’d been making stops. I draw back, watching as her blue eyes pop open. Her lashes are studded with trapped tears, her cheeks rosy. She licks her lips, and immediately draws the lower one between her teeth. As soon as it pops free, I dive down and capture her mouth with mine.

Her body stiffens, then relaxes. Her jaw clenches, then opens. She resists me… and then crumbles apart.

I draw her away from the door, one hand sliding over her belly, the other tangling in her hair.

When I deepen our kiss, she sways against me. My hand slides down, finding the hem of her skirt, lifting it in front. I fumble it, but when I make to grab it again, her hand is already there.

I rumble against her lips when I feel her lifting up her skirt for me. “Yeah?” I murmur, wrapping my arms around her so I can trail my fingers up her inner thighs. “You think, just because I made you so fucking horny, now you deserve to come?”

Her breath shudders over my mouth. “Fuck you.” She starts pushing down her skirt, but I catch the hem and keep it up.

“Uh-uh,” I tut her, teasing the shell of her ear with my teeth. “I never said I was done with you.”

She hisses when I brush my fingertips over her swollen clit. Her hips buck forward, and I chuckle as she tries to force me to touch her harder. Instead, I circle her clit with barely any pressure and snatch her into another kiss.

Evie grabs my wrist, but I shake her off. Our kiss grows harder, fiercer, like we’re fighting for dominion over this battlefield. But she has no idea how long I’ve been denying myself these kinds of pleasures. I’m a fucking fortress. There’s nothing this girl can do to—

I groan into her mouth when Evie reaches behind and grabs hold of my dick through my pants. “Fuck.”

She squeezes me so hard, I hiss. So I pinch her clit.

As she grips me again, clamping down even harder, she adds a small pump that makes me rock forward, pushing her against the door again, crushing my hand into her pubic bone.

Her breath comes out as a pant when I slide my other hand between her legs from behind, dragging my fingers through her dripping pussy.

“What kind of girl gets this wet from a spanking?” I murmur into her ear. “And you still claim to be a good girl?”

She’s still got hold of my dick, and rewards me for my comment with another hard pump. “Don’t flatter yourself. It’s been so long since I last got laid, I see a cucumber and I get wet.”

A jolt of anger surges through me, and I pin her harder to the door, kicking her legs open even wider. Her panties are at the breaking point, the elastic cutting into her stockinged ankles. I lean back, gnawing on my bottom lip as I take in the red handprints all over her plump ass, her muscular thighs, her curvy, stocking-clad calves.

I’m salivating with how badly I want to devour her. But first I give her another slap, because I can’t get enough of the sound she makes, the way her curvy ass jiggles, how my handprint blooms bright red on skin that’s never seen the sun.

Then I spin her around, my hand on her breastbone, keeping her in place. She watches me with hooded eyes, her lips parted, her chest heaving under my hand as she fights for breath.

“Lift your skirt.”

Her lips tremble as she lets out a soft sigh. But she doesn’t obey. Not fast enough, anyway.

I growl as I yank up her skirt, but when I look down at her plump little pussy, my legs give way.

I sink down in front of her, pushing open her thighs with both hands. She fumbles with her skirt, whimpering and trying to hide her face behind her hair as she turns away.

“Look at me,” I demand, sinking my fingertips into her soft flesh.

She peeks at me through her hair, her lips damp where she worries them with her teeth. “Owen… please…” Every word comes out with a tight huff of breath, like she’s panting at me for mercy.

“You just told me what an asshole I am.” I tilt my head to the side, watching her reaction as I glide my knuckle over her dripping pussy. “What makes you think I’m going to be nice to you?”

I move slowly, making sure she takes in every second as I lean forward and close my mouth over her clit.

She lets out a groan, sliding down an inch or two before I press my hand into her belly to keep her in place.

My other hand I use to finger her wet pussy. It sucks me in greedily, clenching tight as I work my way deeper inside. She moans, her thighs parting even wider, her hips bucking forward until she’s grinding her sex into my face.

I can’t hold back from tasting her anymore. I keep my fingers buried deep as I lap at her dripping folds, my thumb massaging her engorged clit.

“Oh, my God, Owen, fuck…” Then she groans, her hips bucking furiously.

“I didn’t say you can come,” I tell her, drawing back and giving her a vicious fucking with my fingers as I stare up at her.

Her lips tremble, her lust-filled eyes barely able to focus on me. She grabs a fistful of my hair so tightly it makes me wince, and drags me back to her pussy. “I don’t fucking care,” she whispers. “Please, just… God, don’t stop.”

I do what she says, but only because I’m so desperate to taste her sweet pussy again. I swirl my tongue over her clit and then pull out my fingers, spearing her with my tongue as I tease my fingers up to her asshole back door.

She whimpers, shifting back, trying to keep me away, but when I shove the fingers of my other hand inside her, she stiffens and stays put.

I finger her a few times, staring up as her face goes slack with pleasure, and then I tease her clit with the tip of my tongue. She moans, bucking against my mouth, her hand twisting painfully in my hair as she forces me to add more pressure.

I do, but her insistence is going to come with a price.

Evie tries to move away again when I glide my lubricated finger over her asshole.

I draw away from her clit, beckoning with the two fingers I have buried in her pussy. “How badly do you want to come, my little lamb?”

Her eyelashes flutter. “Fuck you, Owen.”

“I believe I’m the one doing the fucking right now.” I thrust my fingers inside her again, and her mouth falls open on a low moan. I grab her thigh and force her to swing her leg over my shoulder, opening up her pussy even more. Then I shove my finger into her clenching cunt, finding her spongy g-spot and rubbing it hard.

“Oh, God,” she groans, sliding her other thigh up. She starts bobbing up and down, grabbing my hair with both hands to keep her balance.

The sound of the heel of my palm smacking into her wet pussy is so enticing, I know I’m seconds away from getting my cock out and finishing the job.

But then I wouldn’t have the pleasure of her coming in my mouth—and that’s what I’m after.

I keep fingering her as I suck her clit between my lips. She grinds against my face, her skirt flopping over the top of my head in her breathless, writhing abandon. If my mouth wasn’t full of clit, I’d have told her to keep it up, to watch me. But I’ve got bigger things on my mind.

I glide my finger over her asshole again. Once. Twice. On the third pass, I force the tip inside her.

“No!” Evie gasps, her thighs clamping closed against the sides of my head. “Owen, no!”

Ignoring her, I start eating her out like a starving man, my tongue lapping over her pussy where she’s dripping for my fingers.

“Fuck!” Evie gasps, her thighs clamping closed against the sides of my head. “Owen! Oh, God, fuck, Owen, stop,” she blubbers above me, sounding seconds away from bursting into tears.

My nose is teasing her clit, but it’s only when I start moving my finger in and out of her asshole that she comes.

And Jesus Christ, despite all her pathetic protests, Evie comes.

Her frantic yell is almost as hot as the way she creams herself, or the way she bucks wildly against my mouth. I pull out my fingers, lapping up every drop she squeezes out of her clenching pussy for me, my tongue darting in and out of her tight entrance in time with the finger in her asshole.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” She keeps rutting against my mouth, her gasp shaking loose like a death rattle.

I can’t stop tasting her, even when she goes limp. I keep licking her slowly, lapping every inch of her pussy until she pulls her skirt off my head with trembling fingers.

“Please stop,” she whispers.

I gaze up at her, and give her one final, lingering lick that makes her shudder violently.

When I stand, she starts sliding down to the ground. I grab her out of instinct, my fingers wrapping around her throat. The movement knocks a single tear loose from her glittering eyes. Neither of us move to wipe it away, letting it drip all the way down to her jaw, her chin.

She watches me with shell-shocked eyes, and slowly licks her lips. “Thank you…”

“What?” I let her go, stepping back so fast I almost lose my footing.

Evie puts her hand against the door to straighten, and pushes her hair out of her face as soon as she’s standing at full height. She licks her lips again, and then slowly smooths her hands down her skirt. “I said… thank you.”

“I heard you.” My voice is so hoarse, it sounds like I’ve been shouting for hours. “And it’s my pleasure.”

She puts on a smile, and even though it’s unsteady, it’s still a kick in the fucking teeth. “Oh, no,” she says, her smile brightening more. “That’s not what I’m thanking you for.” Then her expression sobers in an instant.

I narrow my eyes, grabbing my cock through my pants and giving it a hard squeeze in an attempt to get it to calm the fuck down.

“You proved me right,” she says, her throat moving as she swallows. “You’re every inch”—her eyes flicker to the hand on my cock—“the asshole I thought you were.”

Chapter Sixteen

Evie

It’s no surprise Kat comes to investigate when I slam my bedroom door shut later that afternoon.

“Good first day, huh?”

“Leave me alone.”

“Wow, you don’t sound like a sulky teenager at all.”

I snuggle deeper into my pillow, but Kat just can’t catch a fucking hint. My mattress sinks down as she sits beside me, then she’s stroking my hair.

“Let me guess… boy trouble?”

I twist over to glare at her. “How the hell would you know?”

She winds a lock of her blue hair around her finger. It might just be the light in here, but it’s not as vibrant as it was on the weekend. “I’m a little psychic.”

I roll my eyes at her and turn my back. “Good God. Just leave me alone, would you?”

“Hmmm… I’m picking up something. Does this have anything to do with a tall, handsome stranger named Owen?”

I roll onto my back, slapping my hands onto my belly as I stare at her. “So what if it does? What does the All Seeing Kat say I should do about it?”

Kat stands, toying with her hair as she starts moving around my room, gliding her hands over my furniture, peeking in my nightstand drawer. I watch her entire performance through narrowed eyes, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“I told you to stay away from him.”

“It’s not like I wasn’t trying.” I put my hands over my face. “He’s stalking me or something. Everywhere I look, there he is.”

I’m not exaggerating. After I came so hard I saw stars, I was determined to put at least half a campus width between me and Owen. But every time I finished a class, I’d see him in the hallway. He was watching me in the cafeteria. And he drove past me on a golf cart when I was walking home.

He’d slowed down like he was considering offering me a lift, but then he’d just scowled and carried on driving.

Jerk.

And every time he’d give me the same dead-eyed look he gave me in the bell tower, when I thanked him for proving what an asshole he was.

I mean, he spanked me so hard I could barely sit through my classes. I had to eat lunch standing up. And what did he do when I told him to stop? He shoved a finger up my butthole. And he has the audacity to look at me like I’m the bitch?

I shouldn’t even have bothered going to class after that. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t concentrate on any of my lessons. And, to make matters worse, I kept thinking back to what happened in the tower.

But I can’t tell Kat any of this, because even thinking about it turns my face beet red.

“See? Told you I was gifted.”

“Well, congratulations. Now how do I fix it?”

Kat laughs. “Oh, honey, there’s no fixing what you have.”

I glare at her. “Don’t you dare.”

She shrugs. “Tell me I’m wrong.”

“He’s an animal,” I hiss at her.

“Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.”

“The lady is considering transferring to another school. On a different continent.”

“Another continent?” Kat arches an eyebrow. “Really?”

I compress my lips into a line. I can’t even put into words how desperately I want out of this situation, but I try. “He’s such an asshole. Just because I dared slap him, now I’m on some VIP blacklist and he’s made it his life’s mission to make my life a living hell.”

“Did you just say you slapped him?”

My mouth works. “Accidentally.”

She cocks her head at me. “How do you accidentally slap someone? Did he walk really fast into your hand or something?”

“He annoyed me into doing it. I can’t be held responsible for what I do when I’m met with that level of assholery, Kat, I can’t.”

She shrugs. “See, this is why I told you to stay away. Men like him seem like the perfect candidate for all that happily ever after bullshit… until you figure out what’s wrong with them.”

“Oh, I know what’s wrong with him, all right,” I mutter, half to myself.

“Do you now?”

“He’s a monster.”

She purses her lips. “He’s definitely not landing himself on a Mary Poppins wish list or anything—no one can hold a candle to apple strudel—but I wouldn’t call him a monster. He’s more of an… acquired taste.”

“He’s a grade-A asshole. He’s made that fact very clear.”

“Depends what you’re into…”

I blink at her. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Why the hell does she look so fucking uncomfortable all of a sudden?

She keeps shifting her weight, her eyes darting all over the room. I guess it could the cocktail of drugs she took this morning, but something tells me there’s a lot more to Owen than I know.

“Kat…” My voice is low. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“Maybe it’s better if I show you.”

I quirk up an eyebrow, silent as she goes to fetch her phone. She shows me a photo, and I recoil with confusion. It’s a close-up of a girl’s slender neck covered in angry bruises.

“What the fuck?”

“Guess there are always two sides to every story,” Kat muses absently, tipping her head one way, then the other.

I point at the phone. “Is that… is that you in the photo?”

“What? No! Oh, my God, I’m not into that shit.” My frown prompts her to add, “From what I’ve gathered, being the social butterfly that—”

“Gossip.”

She scowls at me. “Being the gossip that I am, is that Owen likes it kinda rough in bed.” She glances down at the phone. “Kinda really rough. And I guess, if you’re not into that, then…”

My mind works frantically in the beat of silence that follows.

Oh, my God.

It explains so much. Not everything… but a lot. The way he grabbed my throat. The spankings. How he always seems to want to tower over me and intimidate me.

“Then what?” I croak.

“Then you might have a different idea of exactly what’s consensual, and what isn’t.”

My eyebrows shoot to my hairline. “Owen was arrested for this?” I look down at the photo. Of course he’d be arrested. Whatever he did to her, it looks painful. Malicious, almost.

There’s a hard knot in my stomach.

What the fuck was I thinking being alone with this guy? He could have done anything to me. Hurt me, like in the photo… or worse.

I shudder, looking away. Kat quickly locks her phone and sets it down, her mouth working as if she’s biting the inside of her lip. “I dated a guy once who was into this kind of stuff,” she says, almost reluctantly. “I quickly figured out it wasn’t my thing, but I didn’t break it off immediately because I really did like him.” She drops her head, mutters, “I fucking loved him.” Then she’s looking up at me again with wide green eyes. “In the end, it didn’t work out. He needed something I couldn’t give him. And he understood that. He never pressured me into anything.”

She taps a nail on her phone’s screen. “This girl? Penny? I think she got herself into something she couldn’t handle. Whether that was her fault, or Owen’s, no one knows.”

“Did he have to serve time?” Knowing how rich he is, his lawyers probably got him a great deal. A few months, time served, something like that. Maybe a few hours of community service.

Kat laughs dryly. “Oh, the case was dropped.”

“She changed her mind?”

My roommate shakes her head. “It got changed for her. She arrived in school in a Bentley her family couldn’t possibly afford. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Daltons bought her silence.”

My jaw drops. “And you want to try and convince me this guy is an acquired taste?”

“Forget about that.” Kat waves away my question with an impish grin on her face. “You slapped Owen Dalton?” She studies me for a second, and then snorts through an abrupt laugh. “You’re kinda my hero right now.”

I remember the flash of surprise, then the anger in his eyes. I’m only just starting to realize how dangerous this guy is. No wonder he was so shocked—he probably thinks I knew about all this stuff.

Does he think I like it rough too? Slapping, spanking, throat grabbing? Is that why he took me up to the bell tower… as an experiment, to see how far he could push me?

Kat claps her hands, laughing. “Ah, man, I wish I’d been there to see it.”

“Yeah?” I shove her out of the way so I can go to the bathroom. “Well I wish I’d never fucking met him.”

“Trust me, you’d have met him,” she calls after me through the closed door before letting herself in.

“I’m peeing!”

“And I’m telling you, you’d have met Owen one way or the other. Or have you already forgotten how small this town is?”

“Then I wish I’d never come here in the first place!” I’m busy washing my hands in the basin as the yell bursts out of me. It’s a combination of the dull ache in my backside, the way my body tingles at even a mention of Owen, and the annoyance of trying to explain to someone just how fucked in the head this day has left me. But it all comes out wrong, like I’m attacking Kat.

“Oh.” She sidesteps, crossing her arms over her chest. “I thought you were having fun.”

“Fun? Getting stuck in this musty old place instead of a nice dorm room on campus is fun? Having some sex-sadist stalk me through the hallways and do shit to me that I didn’t want him to do, that’s fun?”

Kat frowns at me. “What are you saying?”

I know she’s prying, but I will go to my fucking grave before I admit what happened between me and Owen. And one half of the reason is because I didn’t want it to happen.

The other reason? I liked it… and I have no idea why.

I don’t know what shames me more.

“I hate this place, and everyone in it.” I glare at her as I retreat to my room. “Now leave me the fuck alone.”

Chapter Seventeen

Owen

How could I let myself unravel like that? It was stupid, reckless. And I went too far.

Again.

I scared her. Fuck, I scared myself. I’ve never felt so dominated by my urges than when I was with her in that bell tower.

All for what? To prove a point?

According to Evie, the only thing I proved was just how big an asshole I am. It’s the truth too. I was headed in the right direction. I was sweet, and I was thoughtful, but that’s never been me. I feel incomplete unless I’m battling chaos, like ordinary life is too easy for me.

I’ve definitely leveled up though. Evie hates me. It’s only a matter of time before Evie tells someone what happened. How I attacked her. Do I honestly not have a single shred of self-control anymore?

What the hell is it about this woman that makes me lose my shit every time I’m near her?

Her voice.

I’m in my private bathroom. Liam and I are the only Royals with our own en-suites. I came in here to take a cold shower, maybe jerk off so I could ease my aching balls, but the longer I stare at my reflection in the mirror, the less I feel like giving myself pleasure and the more I feel like punching myself in the fucking face.

Her voice?

Is it something she says, or the way she says it? Could be either, could be both. All I know is I couldn’t hold back. Evie found a way inside, and I still don’t how she did it.

Which means I don’t how to fix it.

I can’t believe I let myself frighten her like that. How did my good intention become so twisted? And is there any way I can get her to forget about it? To forget about me?

Growling at my gloomy reflection, I start pacing the bathroom.

I could give her back her key. It must mean a lot to her, else she wouldn’t keep pestering me about it. But there’s this strange, selfish part of me that can’t bear the thought of letting it go.

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I took it out of my nightstand drawer and toyed with it, trying to figure out what it unlocked. It made me feel close to her, which is weird because she’s literally down the hall.

So, no. I know I can’t keep it forever, but I’m not ready to let it go yet, either. There must be something…

A key.

Not her key. A different key. Something that will make her feel safe again.

I take out my phone and message Liam, drumming my fingers on the basin as I wait for him to respond. He does after a minute or two and I nod, a faint smile on my face.

He sends another text.

What for?

I don’t bother with a reply.

The only thing on my mind right now is Evie.

I knock again, frowning at the closed door. I’m itching to push it open, because I know it will be unlocked, but that would be a direct contradiction to why I’m here. I’m trying to make up for what I did, to make sure Evie doesn’t feel threatened by me anymore.

I’ll do anything to ensure she stays quiet about what happened. Because although I made her come, she didn’t want to.

It’s so fucking crystal clear to me now, and I’m struggling to understand how I didn’t realize it at the time. Guess I was caught up in the moment.

I rap on the door again. I know she’s home—I drove past her after classes. I was going to offer her a lift, but from the looks she’d been giving me all day, I didn’t think she wanted to be anywhere near me.

Which was pretty fucking strange, because she kept following me around. Everywhere I looked, I saw Evie. She even came to glare at me in the cafeteria when I was eating lunch. She made a real show of it, standing on the side where it would have been impossible for me to miss her. It was as if she was trying to send a message, that she didn’t deign to sit amongst heathens like us.

I wanted to drag her over my lap and show her exactly how a heathen behaves with someone as stuck up as her.

Which is why I can’t trust myself around her.

My eyes narrow, my hand an inch from the door, ready to knock again. I take a step back, eyes widening.

What the fuck are you doing?

Jesus. This is the exact opposite of what I’m trying to achieve. I’m supposed to be distancing myself, not putting myself in range of her siren call.

I stare at the key in my hand, then at her closed door. I wasn’t lying when I told her we had an open-door policy at the Walsh House. But that rule usually only applies to guests, or Oz when he’s on one of his benders. Liam keeps all the keys in the house’s safe—and he changes the combination on a regular basis. Besides the keys, we keep some money and a handgun in there. The gun is Oz’s; we took it off him at the start of last semester when he went on a week-long vodka-and-coke binge.

Sighing, I bend down and push the key under the door.

I’d hoped for a face-to-face. Someway to gauge whether she’d accept my gift.

Now I guess only time will tell.

Chapter Eighteen

Evie

I’m failing college. It’s Friday night, and I’m doing laundry. I tell myself it’s because I don’t know what fresh hell this weekend might bring, but honestly… I’m avoiding Owen.

When I come downstairs to collect my final load of washing, the kitchen still smells like chili, and my stomach grumbles. In the spirit of being lame, I think I’ll come grab some from the pot on the stove and barricade myself in my room for the rest of the night.

I expected the chili… but I didn’t expect to see Kat lounging against the kitchen island nursing a beer. I thought she’d be out partying in the woods like the rest of the school. It’s all they ever seem to do on weekends.

“There you are,” she says dryly. “I thought you were still upstairs, wishing we’d never met.”

She took what I’d said very personally, which hadn’t surprised me. Still, I’d felt like shit about everything, particularly when I’d heard her crying a few nights ago. I’d tried knocking on her bathroom door, but she’d yelled at me to go away. Ever since then, I’ve been avoiding her and Owen like my life depended on it. Which, in a house this size, is kind of hard to do.

“Look, Kat, I’m sorry.” My stomach rumbles again, but I ignore it. “I said some mean things, and—”

She gives me a dismissive wave. “Don’t we all.” Her eyes roll to the ceiling as she puts a hand into the pocket of the short dungarees she’s wearing over a neon-pink crop top. She smells like weed, and from the red tinge to her eyes, she’s stoned as hell. “Here.”

I stare at the key in her hand. “What’s this?”

“The key to my heart,” she croons, clutching her hands under her chin and batting her eyelashes at me. Then she laughs and holds out her hand, the key on her palm. “Now you can keep all us assholes out of your room.”

“That’s… sweet.”

She shrugs. “I found it on the floor by your door.”

I hastily stamp down my annoyance before it gets out of hand and has me yelling at Kat again. I hold up a finger. “First, what were you doing in my room?”

Kat opens her mouth, but I interrupt her with another finger. “How long have you had this?”

Again, she opens her mouth. Again, I cut in. “And who put this there?”

Kat gives me a deadpan look, counting off her fingers as she says, “I was looking for my pills, Monday—and fuck if I know.”

We stare at each other for a beat before I let out an exasperated sigh. “I don’t have the energy for this.” I shove the key into my pocket.

She hangs her head a little, looking up at me through her lashes. “I’m sorry. I should have given it to you sooner, but I kinda forgot about it.”

“You know I don’t have your pills, right?” I put my hands on my hips. “We’ve been through this, Kat.”

“I know,” she whines, clapping her hands over her cheeks and stalking past me to the pot of chili. “Want some? It’s just gonna go to waste with no one here to eat it.”

“Then why’d the chef make it?”

“He didn’t know everyone was going out.”

“You’re still here…”

Kat squints at me over her shoulder. “I’m cleaning my room. Who knows, I might just find my pills.”

“So you mean, you actually do know how to clean your room, you just never thought it was a good idea until now?”

“Bitchiness doesn’t suit you, Evie,” Kat says through a grin. “And the more I think about it, the less I actually wanna do it.” She gives me a quick onceover. “We could go out instead. There’s a bonfire down by the lake.”

A hair-raising drive with Kat followed by the possibility of bumping into Owen or another of the equally obnoxious Royals? I’d rather drink a bottle of hot sauce.

“No, thanks. And I’ll come grab some chili when I’m done folding.” I go into the laundry room and toss my dried clothes into a hamper.

When I come back out, Kat is busy dishing up a massive helping for both of us.

I sigh again.

Talk about selective hearing.

“I said I’ll get some later,” I tell her as I walk past with my clothes. “And I don’t have your pills.”

Hopefully this time she’ll take it to heart.

She spins around, pouting. “But I’ve looked everywhere.

“Can’t you just get a refill?”

“Wouldn’t that be nice?” she mutters, then turns and shoves a bowl in my direction. Chili slops over the rim and almost lands on the floor. “Here you go.”

I try not to sound annoyed when I say, “I’ll come back for it.”

She shrugs, puts the bowl down again. “Could have said that in the first place.”

I stare at her in shock.

She peeks at me through her lashes. “I’m kidding.”

I let out a reluctant laugh. “You’re something,” I tell her. “I don’t know what, and I don’t even know if I like it, but you’re definitely something.” As I turn, she hurries up to me with something behind her back.

“Wait.” She brings out two shots of clear liquid. “Truce?”

I stare down at the alcohol, then up at her. “Really?

“Don’t be a loser.”

I roll my eyes at her. “Just one.”

She grins, and we clink our shot glasses together before tossing them back.

I end up having four before I can convince Kat that my clothes will get creased if I don’t go fold them straight away. She dismisses my concerns with a wave of her hand.

“Evie… wait,” she calls out as I walk away.

Something about the tone of her voice puts my teeth on edge. I turn to her, frowning. “What?”

“I… uh… there’s something else. I didn’t want to tell you, because I didn’t think it was a big deal… but…”

I cock my head, giving her my best out with it expression.

She relents, scrunching up her mouth before blurting out, “Owen was in your room the other night.”

I can’t quite hide the incredulous note in my laugh. “What?”

“He was snooping around. Said he didn’t trust you. I told him to get out.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

She shrugs. “Like I said, I didn’t think it was such a big deal.” She looks at my pocket where I shoved the key she’d just given me. “I’m guessing he felt bad, which would explain why he gave you back the key. So don’t go apeshit or anything, okay? I’ve never seen or heard of Owen apologizing in his entire life… so maybe cut him some slack.”

“Cut him some—” I make a strangled sound, my lips twisting.

Kat rolls her eyes at me. “See? This is why I didn’t want to tell you.”

I manage to keep my irritation in check. Barely. The last thing I want is Kat keeping things from me because she thinks I can’t handle it. “I’m fine.”

She cocks at eyebrow at me. “Uh-huh.”

“Really, I am. Thank you for telling me. I promise I won’t freak out. In fact, I’ve already forgotten.”

She recoils from the grin I force my mouth into, and I leave before it becomes a scowl.

With every step I take up the stairs, the key in my pocket digs into my thigh. It’s probably the tequila’s fault, but by the time I reach the landing, I’m boiling with fury.

As if I wouldn’t figure out who’d put the key there.

It must have been Owen. I bet this is his way of apologizing. He knows he fucked up, and probably wants to make it better. But this isn’t the key I want. He needs to return the key he stole from my necklace the first night we met.

I stop, cradling the hamper with my fresh-smelling clothes to my chest as I stare down the guys’ hallway.

His room is probably locked.

But if it isn’t… then I can look for my key. I glance down the stairs, catching sight of Kat ambling into the TV room with her bowl of chili.

Guess her room isn’t getting cleaned after all.

I hesitate before hurrying down the hall. I don’t dare leave my hamper behind, so I bring it with me. If Kat comes upstairs and sees it, it’ll be a sure sign that I’m up to mischief.

The first door is locked. Wilder’s room was the second, so I skip it.

The third is closed, but unlocked. I have no idea if this is Owen’s room or not, but I’m searching it either way. The drapes are drawn, so the room is pitch dark. I can’t risk turning on the light, but I do go over to the window and pull open the curtains so a little moonlight can shine in.

The faint light illuminates the outline of a study desk, a chest of drawers, and a slightly larger bed than mine. The layout is different—the bed in the middle of the room and the other furniture arranged against the walls. The room’s also larger than mine—perhaps as big as Kat and mine combined.

There’s a doorway leading off of the main room, and I’m too curious not to check it out.

An en-suite bathroom? This has to be Owen’s room… or Liam’s.

My gaze latches onto the clothes in the laundry hamper. There’s an easy way to way to find out whose room this is. It’s creepy, but definitive.

I grab the school shirt piled on top of everything else and bring it up gingerly to my nose.

I’m still standing there, inhaling Owen’s scent from his dirty clothes… when someone clears their throat behind me.

Chapter Nineteen

Evie

Dropping his shirt in panic, my eyes go wide as I stare at Owen’s silhouette. He flicks on the bathroom light, making me blink rapidly in the sudden glare. My cheeks heat with guilt as he stares at me, and they grow even hotter when his eyes slide down to the laundry basket where his shirt is draped over the side.

“Were you…?” He frowns and steps closer, his head tilting to the side. “Were you just smelling my clothes?”

I can’t tell if he’s disgusted or fascinated. I push out my chin, refusing to cower despite the awkward situation. “Maybe. So what? You’ve done worse.”

There’s an unspoken to me at the end of the sentence and from the way his jaw clenches, Owen picks up on it.

He takes another step into the bathroom. “I’m confused.”

Not that he looks it. He resembles more a hunter scoping out a rabbit that’s caught its leg in his snare. “You told me I was an asshole, and now you’re in my room sniffing my shirt?”

God, what the hell was I thinking?

This was supposed to be a quick reconnaissance mission, not some creepy stalker shit. In my defense, he’s not even supposed to be here.

“I thought you were at the lake.” I regret my idiotic words the second they spill from my idiot lips.

“So you decided to come snoop around my room?”

I let out a bitter laugh. “You’re one to talk.” I know I should clam up immediately before he realizes Kat ratted him out, but I refuse to let him think he’s on some kind of moral high ground.

I try to salvage the situation by pulling the key out of my pocket. “This? What’s this?”

“A key,” he says dryly. “Do I need to show you how it works, too?”

“This is not what I want.” My voice is getting louder, fiercer. The fact that I can’t control myself when I’m around him should be sending alarm bells through my head, but all I can think about is how fucking mad I am at him.

“Then what do you want, Evie?”

“Stop saying my name like that.”

“Like what?” To his credit, he looks genuinely unsure about what I’m talking about.

How am I supposed to explain to him that it gives me a tiny thrill deep inside my soul every time I hear my name pass his lips?

Instead of a snarky reply, I just stand there, silently fuming.

“You know what I think, Evie?”

I shiver internally, but I still don’t trust myself not to say something monumentally stupid so I remain silent.

“I think you like me.”

My quick laugh sounds more like a bark. “You wish.”

The edges of Owen’s mouth start to curl up. “In fact, I think you can’t get me out of your head.” He takes another step closer. His hand goes to his belt where he slowly feeds the tongue out of the buckle. “I think you’re so turned on by what happened in the bell tower that you’ve been replaying it in your head on repeat ever since.”

I swallow hard, willing him to get the fuck out of my head. I’ve been able to concentrate on classes and get assignments done during the day, sure, but at night?

It’s not just monsters that come out at night. It’s the memories of what they’ve done to you, too.

“Of course you’d think that,” I manage in a tight voice as he pulls his belt out of the loops in his pants. My legs are frozen in place, my heart thudding desperately the closer he gets. “You think every planet in this fucking galaxy revolves around you, even the sun.”

“The sun’s not a planet.”

I grit my teeth at him. “You know what I mean.”

“Do I? Because you’re doing an awful lot of complaining, but not a lot of resisting.” He slowly folds his belt in half. “Any other girl would be gone already. So what are you still doing here?”

I lick my lips, drawing Owen’s gaze for a millisecond before he locks eyes with me again.

“I think you don’t want to leave. I think you want to find out how I’m going to punish you for snooping around in my room. Am I right, Evie?”

He snaps the belt, and something inside me finally releases the hold on my legs. I bolt past him, swerving to avoid him grabbing me.

I bounce off the doorjamb, nearly losing my balance as I head for the bedroom door. It’s closed, and something tells me to slow down, to think this through… but I’m too desperate to get out. I slam into it. Fumble with the handle. Yank it.

But it’s locked.

Of course it’s fucking locked.

I spin around, watching Owen stroll out of the bathroom. The bright light behind him casts him in shadow, his figure a stark silhouette, his belt hanging loosely in one hand at his side, the other hand clenching and unclenching at his side.

I glare at him. “Open the door.”

“Is that really what you want?”

“Open the door!”

Owen takes such a deep breath that I can hear him inhaling. He walks up to me with measured strides, and it takes every bit of resolve I have to stand my ground.

He puts a hand in his pocket, takes out a key. Then he leans in close to unlock the door behind me.

“There. You’re free to go.”

But the door swings inward, so he has to step back for me to open it… and he’s not moving. Even though he’s not touching me, I can feel the warmth of his body.

He drags the belt up between my legs. I quickly shift, slamming my thighs together to block him.

“Let me out,” I whisper.

“The door’s unlocked, Evie.”

“Then step back.”

“You’re sure that’s what you want?” He yanks the belt out between my closed legs and, moving so fast I don’t even have time to think about stopping him, lands that strip of leather against my outer thigh with a light smack. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay?”

I gasp, moving away from the sting of pain. It was little more than a tap compared to the way he assaulted my ass in the bell tower, but the insinuation sends a cold jolt through my body.

He moves his hand to my other side and smacks my hip. “One way or the other, you’ll have to pay for snooping. Why not just get it over with?”

Owen drags the belt up my side, over my breast. I’m in sweats and a tank top, my hoodie zipped up halfway. I didn’t bother with a bra—I wasn’t expecting company. So when Owen touches me with the belt, my nipple tightens to a hard point under the thin fabric of my shirt. He lets out a soft breath, his eyes shifting down.

“You’re not doing this again,” I tell him. “Let me go, or I’ll scream.”

“And who’s going to hear you?” he asks calmly, teasing my other nipple with the belt.

“Kat. She’s just downstairs. She’ll—”

“In the TV room? I saw her.” His lips curl up higher. “She’s passed out cold.”

My stomach tenses. “You’re lying.”

“Am I?”

I clench my teeth. If shouting won’t bring help, then I’ll have to get myself out of this. He’s bigger, stronger… but he’s not invincible.

My knee shoots up, aiming for his groin, but he steps aside like he saw it coming. When he puts a hand in his pocket to take something out, I can’t help but notice the large ridge of his erection outlined under his pants.

Shivers break out over my skin. “Owen…”

He ignores my soft plea, and brings his hand to his nose. “I get why you did it,” he says quietly.

I have no idea what he’s talking about until I see the strip of satin he has clutched in his fist.

My necktie. He must have taken it out of the hamper I left at the foot of his bed.

Just how long was he standing there watching you?

A thrill courses through my body at the thought, and it confuses me more than the dark lust that fills Owen’s eyes as he slowly unspools the strip of satin.

“I think we’re more alike than you want to admit, Evie.” His voice drops low, so deep and rich that it hypnotizes me. At least, that’s the only reason I can come up with why I don’t try to hit him again.

“You’re not going to use that belt on me.”

Darkness floods his eyes as he runs the belt up my throat, my jaw, my lips. “Toys don’t decide how they’re played with,” he murmurs. My mouth trembles as the belt traces the curve of my lips.

“And from the moment you stepped into my room, that’s exactly what you became, Evie. My toy.”

Chapter Twenty

Owen

Toy.

Evie’s face softens at the word. It’s too much to hope, but it’s almost as if she’s finally accepting what’s about to happen. Submitting to this.

To me.

I beckon her with a crooked finger, leading her away from the door. Our eyes are locked as she slowly follows. She doesn’t hesitate, but she twists her hoody in her hands, and her bottom lip twitches as she worries it with her teeth.

“Hold out your hands.”

She gives me a slow blink before obeying, raising her arms out in front of her. I wrap her tie around her wrists, and she lets out a surprised sound when I yank it into a tight knot.

A shaft of moonlight beams in from a gap in the curtains. More light spills from my open bathroom door, bathing the area with a faint, warm glow.

“Open the drapes.”

Her bound hands tremble as she drags the curtains apart.

“Now crack the window, toy.”

The larger rooms in the Walsh House have bay windows with narrow window seats. Mine isn’t padded—I’m not the kind of person who sits reading a book in the window. She has to lean over it to reach the sash. Cool night air spills in from outside—the rustle of trees, a night bird trilling in the distance.

“Aren’t you forgetting something, toy?”

She stands perfectly still for a few seconds before slowly, reluctantly, pulling down the waistband of her sweats.

“Stop playing coy.” I lightly tap her ass with the belt. “The longer you make me wait, the higher you’ll have to count.”

“Count?”

“Did I say you could talk?”

“I need to know what the hell is happening.” She sounds even more nervous now, like she’s starting to realize she has no idea what she’s in store for.

“You’re a smart girl. You’ll figure it out. Now not another word from you, or those ten lashes will become fifteen.”

Her mouth becomes an unhappy crescent, but those lips stay sealed.

“Hands on the seat.”

She glances down at the window seat and slowly places her hands on the bare wood. The seat is low enough that she has to bend considerably to reach it, putting her plump ass in the air.

Moonlight glows upon her naked skin, and a tremor rushes through me. I have an urgent need to see every inch of her ass and legs, so I grab her sweats and yank them down to her feet. She shifts her weight to one side, then the other, kicking off her clothes.

Christ. So fucking obedient.

My cock presses painfully against the front of my jeans, begging to be let out, but I ignore it.

I massage Evie’s buttocks firmly until she’s squirming. When I kick her legs open a little more, she complies without a word. I could spend all night like this, but I’m a man of my word.

Stepping back, I adjust my grip on the belt, twist, and slam it into her ass. Evie’s gasp goes right through me, clutching at the darkness buried so deep inside.

She shoots up to a stand, whirling around as she grabs at the spot I just whipped. “Fuck!”

I tilt my head at her. “One.”

Evie blinks at me like I’m speaking another language, and then ducks down to grab her sweats. “Fuck this.”

“You have nine left to go.” I step in front of her when she makes for the door. She tries to sidestep me, so I grab a fistful of her hair and twist until she goes onto her tiptoes, dropping her sweats back on the floor. “I didn’t say you could leave.”

“Owen, please, I can’t—”

“You’re still speaking, toy.”

Her eyes flutter wildly. She’s holding onto my wrists, digging her nails into my flesh as she attempts to prize my fingers out of her hair. “I can’t do this.”

“You should have thought of that before you broke into my room.”

“The door was open!”

“Ten.”

“Fuck you!” she snarls.

“Eleven.” I tighten my hand again. She gasps, her eyelashes fluttering with pain as she hauls herself up using my arm.

“Okay, okay!” she whispers.

“Twelve.”

The growl she lets out has my cock weeping pre-cum. She opens her mouth, and then reconsiders. Her fingers dig into the skin of my arms, but she remains silent despite how her chest rises and falls with angry breaths.

I use my grip in her hair to turn her around, and shove her face down. She puts her hands out just in time, making another angry sound in the back of her throat. I’m tempted to add another lash for this outburst, but she’s already going to regret this.

Grabbing her ass right where the belt left a faint mark, I squeeze her hard. She doesn’t make a sound, and that puts a smile on my face.

“Such a fast learner, toy.”

I kick her legs open, raise my arm, and land another lash on her ass. She gasps, her thighs quivering, but she remains silent.

“Good girl. Now start counting.”

“So now I can talk?”

I tsk her. “We were down to eleven, toy, but I’ll have to add another one for that comment. Where are we at?”

She says nothing, and my smile curls up another quarter inch. “Good girl.”

Evie gasps when the belt lands on her ass again, and then blusters out a quick, “Twelve.”

“Good girl.”

Smack!

“Eleven.” The sound is muffled, like she’s forcing it through gritted teeth. Despite the low light, her ass is already striped with color.

I grab my cock through my jeans, squeezing it hard as I land another blow on her backside.

“Ten.”

“Nine.”

The next is met with a whimper, a blustery breath, and a whispered “Eight.”

Christ, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

I have a fucking damp spot on my boxers where my cock’s leaking, and it feels ready to tear through my jeans. I give my erection a brutal squeeze in time with another lash on Evie’s ass.

She lets out a soft sob. “Seven.” Her hands claw at the wooden window seat, her legs shaking.

Pleasure spears through me as I land another blow, sending electric pulses through my entire body. This is the second time I’ve used a belt on a girl. This is the first time I’ve gone more than three lashes before she burst into tears and ran out of the room.

I’m tempted to reason it out, to sit here thinking about why and how… but that would render this moment meaningless.

If you’re jumping out of a plane, you don’t spend the freefall wondering why the fuck you’re doing it, worrying about what might happen if your parachute fails. Just how hard the ground is when you’re hitting it at more than a hundred twenty miles an hour.

You turn off your brain and just fucking enjoy it.

This is the first time ever I’ve been able to turn off my reasonable mind, the part of me that’s questioning my sanity… and Evie’s.

None of that matters.

What matters is the here and now. My pounding heart, Evie’s faint whimpers.

I bring her down to five, leaving stripes all over her ass and upper thighs. She’s sobbing now, her body shuddering. She’s so choked up, I barely hear her counting out, “Five.”

“That’s my good girl,” I murmur, sliding the belt over her heated flesh. Her body trembles at even that slight touch, and she hiccups before letting out a last sob.

I bring the belt up between her thighs.

She doesn’t try to close her legs. She doesn’t even make a sound as I drag the leather over her pussy.

I’m about to land another blow when moonlight catches on the belt’s surface. I drag the belt over her pussy again, and hold the leather up to the window to inspect it. When I chuckle, Evie whimpers. I put the belt in front of her eyes, and she turns her head away.

“Lick it, and tell me what you taste.”

She keeps her head turned. Her shoulders start shaking, and it takes me a second to realize she’s crying. But the sound is different.

This has nothing to do with pain.

She’s ashamed.

I grab her hair and haul her to her feet. Her tear-streaked face gleams as I shake her, forcing her to make eye contact with me. When she does, a ripple courses through my body.

She flinches when I drop the belt onto the window seat, and her eyes pop wide open when I grab her pussy just as tightly as I’m holding onto her hair. Blue eyes sparkling with tears latch onto mine.

“Don’t you dare be ashamed,” I hiss, rubbing my palm over her dripping pussy. “This is what happens when toys take their punishment like good girls.”

She whimpers, dropping her eyes. “Owen, please, stop.”

“Or what? You’ll come on my hand?” I slap her wet pussy. “Did you really think I’d let you endure all that pain without pleasure?”

Her cheeks are still flushed with shame. When I squeeze her cunt, her mouth goes slack around a sigh.

“Look at me, toy.”

Her eyes reluctantly lock with mine.

“You’re fucking mesmerizing, you know that?” I inhale sharply, filling my lungs with her shame, her arousal, her. “Do you realize how much strength it took to hold yourself perfectly in place for me while I hurt you?”

I slip a finger inside her and curl it against her g-spot. Her eyes are heavy with arousal, her lips parting.

“Don’t you ever be ashamed about how your body responds to me,” I murmur, dropping my mouth to her ear and planting a tiny kiss against her skin. “It’s exactly what I expect from a good girl like you.”

Chapter Twenty-One

Evie

It’s official. I’ve lost my fucking mind.

Nothing else can explain why I stood there, bent over, legs spread, while this man belted me.

The pain was incandescent. Even now, my ass is so sore, tears keep filling my eyes. I’ve never felt anything like it.

And I’m not just talking about the agony.

Yes, it hurt like hell… but there was something else. Something deeper. Something carnal.

With every strike, a raw power filled me. It drowned out the screams of agony from my nerve endings, and coated my scorched flesh with ice. Then it buried itself deep, deep between my legs, right into my core.

Where it blossomed into something transcendent.

I’m still filled with that energy, that power, but when Owen felt how wet I was, it began crumbling.

As if he’s reading my thoughts, he slams his cupped hand against my pussy. The sting is nothing compared to the pain of the belt, but it reignites the flame within me.

“Please,” I whisper.

Owen presses his mouth to my jaw. “What is it my toy wants?” He slaps my pussy again. “Because you still have five lashes left, and—”

“No, please.” I grind against his hand as he cups me, sliding my hands up his arms and grabbing his shoulders. “Owen, please, I can’t.”

“What makes you think I care?”

I pull away to look into his slate-colored eyes, trying to summon words, but my voice fails me. He’s gazing down at me with a soft, almost paternal gaze… but there’s a hardness in his eyes that makes me realize he’s telling the truth.

He doesn’t care how much it hurts. I owe him five more lashes, and that’s all there is to it.

A sob clenches my chest just at the thought of having to bear one more blow of his belt. I have to persuade him to go easy on me. I have to make him stop.

Slowly, I grab the edge of my hoody and tank top and pull the clothes over my head. Owen’s gaze stays locked with mine for a second before he scans my naked, moonlit body. When he’s worked his way back up to my face, everything is tingling.

“You’re offering a trade?” he asks lightly, tilting his head as if he’s fascinated by my bravado. “Risky… I could just add more lashes.”

I lick my lips, and then scoop my breasts into my hands, kneading them. His eyes stay fixed to mine.

It’s not enough. He wants more.

“May I…?” I brush my fingers over the bottom of his shirt.

He says nothing, his eyes unreadable as I grab his shirt and try to pull it over his head. He’s much too tall for me to manage it, of course, but when I’m standing on tiptoes, he helps—tugging the fabric free and dropping it on the floor.

Still, he just stands there. Waiting.

So I unbutton his jeans, pull down his fly, and slide my hand inside his boxers to grab his dick.

“If you let me off the hook, I’ll…” I blush, words failing me.

His voice is more of a growl. “You’ll what?”

“I’ll… suck you.”

“You’ll suck what?” He moves his hips forward, grinding himself against my hand. He’s so fucking hard, so fucking big. “My toes? My fingers?”

I lick my lips, grab his cock, and haul it out of his pants. But I keep my eyes glued to his, because I know I’ll lose every bit of my nerves if I look down.

“Your… dick.” My face heats up even more as I give him a slow, hard stroke.

Despite what I’m doing to him, his voice is steady. “What are we, in high school? If you can’t even say the word cock, then how am I supposed to believe you’ll blow me?”

My jaw tightens. “Cock.”

“What about it, toy?”

I push out my chin, trying to ignore the way my cheeks flush, and spit out, “I’ll suck your cock, Owen. I’ll suck it like a fucking Hoover.”

He chuckles, wrapping his hand over mine and forcing me to give him a hard, slow stroke. “I don’t want a blowjob, Evie.” His gaze trails down. I gasp when he lands another slap on my pussy. “I want to feel that tight, wet cunt of yours smothering my cock.”

I manage a strangled, “No!” My chest rises and falls for a few seconds as I stare at him.

He might think he doesn’t want a blowjob, but will he honestly refuse me? Once my lips are around his cock, he’s going to reconsider my punishment. I hope.

Only one way to find out.

I drop to my knees, angling his dick toward my mouth before sucking the tip of Owen’s cock between my lips. He makes an angry sound that quickly fades when I swirl my tongue over his crown. He freezes, his chin dropping to his chest as he stares down at me with slitted eyes. “You’re misbehaving, toy,” he croaks.

I move my lips, feeding more of his dick into my mouth. He groans, both hands knotting in my hair.

Jaw bunching, Owen slowly drives himself deeper, his eyes darkening to gunmetal gray when he hits the back of my throat. I gag, but he barely pulls out enough for me to breathe. I haul in a quick breath through my nose before he thrusts even harder into my mouth again.

My stomach convulses as I gag again, tears springing into my eyes.

This was a mistake.

There’s a vicious light in his eyes that excites me and terrifies me at the same time. When I move my head back, he grabs my jaw with one hand and sinks his fingers between my teeth, forcing my mouth open.

“You still think you’re in control, toy?” he whispers as he starts moving in and out of my mouth.

I gurgle around his dick, fighting down the urge to puke every time he drives himself to the back of my throat. He tilts his head to the side, cutting his eyes down to where he’s forcing his dick balls-deep down my throat. “What’s it going to take for you to realize how wrong you are?”

He slams into my mouth, and I nearly fucking puke. When he pulls out, I’m slobbering and gasping so hard that I don’t get a chance to protest before he does it again.

“Jesus fuck,” he pants. “If this is what your mouth feels like, I can’t imagine how good your pussy will feel.”

He forces into me again, a sadistic gleam in his eyes as he deprives me of oxygen. I push against his stomach, but he ignores me until I start pummeling him with my fists.

Owen chuckles as he drags his cock out of my mouth and releases my jaw. Tears streak down my face, a relieved sob blubbering out of me.

I barely have time to draw a proper breath before Owen drags me to my feet. He stares at me for a long moment before crushing his mouth against mine.

I gasp into the violent kiss, going onto tiptoes to press harder against him. My entire body starts throbbing in time with the aching lashes on my ass. Owen turns, keeping our lips locked as he sinks onto the window seat.

There’s a moment where I hesitate, because going down with him will mean sitting on his lap, and his dick is still out… but then he nips at my lower lip and murmurs, “Riding my cock won’t hurt as much as the belt. But I promise, Evie, it’ll be punishment enough.”

I slide onto my knees, our kiss intensifying as he drags me onto his lap.

He leaves one hand in my hair, but the other he trails over the lashes on my ass. I gasp into our kiss, and he growls as if commanding me to be quiet.

When he gives me a hard squeeze, I’m instantly back on that stratospheric high from moments ago.

“Oh, God,” I groan against his mouth. I push my ass out, my body shuddering as he massages my sore flesh.

I start squirming against his cock, trying to gain enough friction so I can come. But I’m too slippery down there, so I just end up moaning with frustration like an amateur porn star.

“Are you trying to make yourself come?” he asks lightly.

“No,” I groan sullenly.

“Are you lying to me, toy?”

I try to kiss him into silence, to get his mind off what I’m trying to do, but he turns his face away with a quiet chuckle.

“Bad girl. Sucking my cock when I told you not to.” He slides his hand down, dragging his fingers over my soaked pussy. “Trying to come without permission.”

I lift my hips, pushing back against his hand. “But I’m so close,” I whisper into his neck.

He presses a finger against my asshole, and my body stiffens. He shifts under me, and I rise onto my knees as he lifts his cock up between my legs. But I can only go so far without standing, so I have no choice but to let him rub himself against my pussy.

“There’s only one way I’m making you come, toy,” he murmurs as his cock threatens to force its way into my pussy. “And that’s with me filling up both of these tight little holes.”

Chapter Twenty-Two

Owen

This girl. This sumptuous, savage girl. She’s kneeling over me with her pussy dripping onto my lap like a faucet. I don’t think she’s even aware of how hard she’s gripping my shoulders, like it’s the only thing keeping her from freefalling to her death.

If the heat cascading down from her wet cunt is any indication, there’s a fucking wildfire waiting inside her pussy for me. I keep a hand on my shaft, rubbing the tip of my cock against her slick lips as I tease her into a new level of submission.

“I’m waiting, toy.” I lift my hips just enough so that I can brush my cock over her clit. “My cock is waiting.”

She opens her eyes, our gazes locking. Moonlight turns her eyes silver, her skin into a radiant glow.

“Owen,” she murmurs, her eyes searching mine. “What are we doing?”

One side of my mouth quirks up as I start circling her tight asshole with my finger. “We’re wasting time.”

Her expression turns serious, and she clamps her bottom lip between her teeth as she waits for my answer.

Fuck. See, this is what happens when you let your mind run rampant.

I stare at her, trying to ignore how badly I want to drive my cock into her. “I don’t know,” I say quietly.

“Then should we really…” She trails off, leaning forward and putting our foreheads together. “I shouldn’t be doing this,” she says through a sigh.

“Just let go, Evie,” I whisper against her hair. “I promise, if you fall, I’ll be there to catch you.”

I don’t know why the fuck I just said that. I guess it’s because I’m desperate to have her fall on my cock. But… it’s not just that. When she moves back and looks at me, I immediately know there was something deeper in my words.

She knows it too, because Evie cups my face in her hands and leans in for another kiss.

This one is a soft, gentle tease. Infuriating, frustrating, arousing as fuck. And when she starts moving her hips backward and forward? Brushing her pussy over the tip of my cock?

I groan, forcing my tongue into her mouth. She opens for me the same moment she sinks down an inch.

When her pussy takes the tip of my dick, she groans into my mouth and slowly lowers herself the rest of the way. We both sigh when she bottoms out on my cock, her pussy so fucking tight it feels like she’s trying to strangle it.

“Yes,” I murmur. “I fucking knew you’d feel this good.”

She groans as she rocks forward, and I can’t stop myself taking her ass in both hands and squeezing. Her gasp has my balls aching to come, but I force back the urge with an iron will.

“God, I’m so fucking close,” Evie gasps. She grabs hold of my shoulders again, gripping tight as she starts pitching her hips forward and back.

“Fuck, this feels too good.” I buck my hips, spearing into her, and we fall into a frantic rhythm.

When we lock eyes, it’s clear she’s about to come.

I grab her hair, dragging her down for a kiss, my other hand sliding behind her and trailing down her asshole. She clenches, and I gather up some of her arousal to smear it over that tight hole. She tries to pull away, her hips stopping, but I don’t need her to move anymore.

She groans against my lips when I force the tip of my finger into her asshole and, in an instant, she’s grinding into my lap like a fucking succubus.

I break our kiss, staring up at her moonlit face.

Evie’s body goes rigid as she comes, her face a glorious expression of pleasure and pain. Her pussy tightens into a vise, trapping my cock deep inside her. I feel her pulsing around me, and when she gasps out my name, I come too.

Our hips grind together as my seed spurts into her pussy. I move back an inch before slamming into her again with a wet smack.

I’ve never felt such a possessive need to fill someone with my seed. I want to ram it so deep inside her that it will become a part of her. Her thighs tighten around my hips, gluing us together, and from the way she grinds down on me, it’s like she never wants to let go.

She bends down for another kiss as our bodies convulse together in pleasure.

I stay buried inside her, nibbling at her lips as she pants against my mouth.

“Jesus Christ,” she whispers, pushing against my chest to sit up. She blinks at me, pupils still dilated. “What the fuck…?”

I don’t reply, because I don’t know what to say. I have no idea what just happened, either. I’ve never felt like this before in my life, like I’m balanced on a razor’s edge.

The pleasure is still there, filling my body, my mind, with a sleepy, blissful radiance.

But there’s something else too. Something sinister. Something dangerous.

My balls haven’t even stopped aching, but I already want to be inside her again. All it took was one taste, and I’m hooked.

I’ve never had that before. Usually, I can’t get dressed fast enough after fucking a woman.

Sliding my arms around her, I lift her up and carry her to my bed. She hisses when her ass touches the sheet, and I quickly climb up behind her and roll her onto her side.

She goes still, our bodies molded together as our breathing slowly returns to normal.

All I want to do is lie here listening to Evie breathe. I close my eyes, and I fill my nose with her scent as I will away every negative thought trying to flood my mind.

I don’t care if this is dangerous. I don’t care if this was a mistake.

Right now, none of that matters.

I’d happily stay trapped in this perfect moment for as long as it lasts.

With my arms wrapped around Evie’s sweat-soaked body, my heart begins to return to its normal beat, my muscles relaxing.

And I find myself hoping that when I wake… she’ll still be here.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Evie

When I wake up and feel Owen’s arms wrapped around me, I’m sure I’m dreaming. As dreams go, it’s not a bad one. But this isn’t a dream. Somehow, this is real life.

I move against him, and he huffs out a soft breath against the back of my neck before slipping back into sleep. When I trail my fingers over his arm, he holds me just a little tighter. I never want to burst this bubble of happiness, but I desperately need to go pee.

Careful not to wake him, I gingerly step into the bathroom and close the door. I’m hoping that, when I get back, I can just slip back under his arms and fall asleep until tomorrow morning.

I wince when I settle down onto the seat. My ass is on fire.

Life has a way of throwing curveballs, doesn’t it?

Who’d have thought I’d be sleeping in Owen’s arms tonight?

And what the hell happened before that?

There’s still a tightness in my center, like my body hasn’t quite gotten over my last fantastic orgasm. I feel so sated, so satisfied.

I wash my hands and step carefully back into Owen’s room. My heart sinks a little when I see he’s turned over onto his side, but I still want to climb in next to him. Maybe I’ll be the big spoon this time.

He sighs when I climb onto the edge of the mattress, and then murmurs something in his sleep.

I freeze.

Did he just say… Penny?

I push off the bed, wrapping my arms around myself as I stare down at his sleeping form. I try to convince myself that I heard wrong, but the damage is done. Suddenly, all my reservations about being here come flooding back. This time, they’re joined by a mental snapshot of Penny’s bruised neck.

I shudder and hurriedly pick up my clothes off the floor. This was fun, but I have to get the hell out of here before he wakes up. What if he wants another round… and what if, this time, he’s not as gentle?

My lips curl into a bitter smile.

He wasn’t gentle, Evie. That’s why you enjoyed it so fucking much.

I shake away the thought with a snap of my head before pulling my tank top on. I’m going to take a hot shower, and then get into my own bed and sleep off this nonsense… after locking my bedroom door.

At least now you have a key.

It’s not the key I was after, though. The one I snuck in here to find. And since I’ve already been punished for snooping, I might as well get what I came for.

I stop, staring at Owen’s sleeping form for a moment.

Using the light on his cellphone for illumination, I go through his room. Dawn is on the way, but there’s not enough light for me to see by. I leave the nightstand for last, hoping he’ll be sound asleep and won’t hear me opening it.

There’s a surprising lack of sentimental items in the room. Not a framed photo or a novel anywhere. Maybe he keeps those things at home, like Kat. Besides her clothes, she doesn’t have a lot of personal stuff in her room either.

My search turns up nothing, so I head back to the bed and carefully open his nightstand drawer. It’s difficult to see inside with just the soft glow from his locked phone’s screen, but I try to move around the items inside to see better.

As my finger touches something familiar, his phone beeps loudly in my hand.

I fumble it and clutch it to my chest, smothering the sound as I turn to the bed.

Thank God, he’s still asleep.

I put my hand back inside the drawer and pull out something long and thin. There’s a faint clink of metal, and I know what’s in my hand before I see it.

My breath hitches. I would have swallowed had my mouth not gone bone-dry.

A collar.

I stare at it for the longest time as my heart pounds heavily in my chest. Slowly, I put Owen’s phone back on the nightstand. Just as slowly, I slip the collar back in the drawer.

But I can’t do it. I can’t let go.

It looks so… familiar.

Almost exactly like the collar I wore not a year ago.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Owen

I wake up with a satisfying delicious, full body stretch. I roll onto my back, massaging my eyes with my fingers as I try to adjust to the bright light streaming through a chink in my curtains.

Jesus, what time is it?

I fumble blindly for my phone and glance at the screen before pushing onto my elbows and scanning my room.

“Evie?”

But I already know she’s gone. I fall back onto the bed, going through the notifications on my phone. A few messages from Sterling and Liam asking me to join them at the lake. A photo of Oz bent over a fallen tree, either passed out or puking into the bushes. Another blurry photo of the massive bonfire.

I drop my phone onto the bed beside me, turning my head to the side. I never sleep this late because I hate how lethargic it makes me feel. So why the hell did I?

Because that was the best night’s sleep of my fucking life.

Because I didn’t want it to end.

Because I knew, maybe subconsciously, that Evie wouldn’t be around when I woke up.

I breathe in deep, trying to stem my frustration. Why am I surprised? I left bruises all over her ass.

My hand clenches into a fist on the sheet as I press my nose into the pillow. Growling, I snatch the pillow out and toss it across the room.

It fucking smells like her.

Turning around, I try to go back to sleep. But it’s impossible because, somehow, she got her scent all over the sheet, too. I must look like a madman as I rush to my feet, still naked, and begin stripping down the bed.

She took her laundry hamper but she left her smell behind. She tainted everything I own with some kind of… hope.

I throw on my boxers and a pair of sweats and storm downstairs with my sheets bundled up in my arms.

Sterling is in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee and looking like death warmed up. “Wet the bed again?” he rasps, dragging a box of cigarettes from the counter behind him to light one.

“Fuck off,” I mutter, shoving past him to get to the laundry.

“Man, you missed a killer party last night.”

I shove my bedsheets into the washing machine and slam the lid. “I was busy.”

Busy fucking up any hope of a normal life.

“Yeah, I heard.” The stench of Sterling’s cigarettes fills the small laundry room as I hunt around for the soap powder. “Kat says you and Evie were knocking boots so loud, they probably heard you on campus.”

I freeze. “What?

Sterling lets out a dry chuckle. “I knew you weren’t serious about Willow. But damn, it worked. I’m guessing Evie was so jealous, she probably tied you to the bed and rode you like a—”

I rush over to him and shove him out of the laundry room. “Don’t you dare speak about her like that.”

“Jesus, what the fuck?” Sterling frowns at me, his cigarette barely clinging to his bottom lip before he rescues it. “It was a joke.”

You’re a joke.” I glance back inside the laundry room. “Where’s the fucking washing powder?”

“You mean that empty box over there?” Sterling points to the wire-mesh trash can in one corner.

It’s not about the soap. It’s not even about Sterling’s joke.

It’s everything.

It all comes crashing down, and I’m left standing in the ruins, dust and debris in my hair.

When I turn to look at Sterling, he slides out of my way like a snake, lifting his hands. “Dude, whatever you’re thinking of doing, don’t. I’m way too hungover to bail you out of prison.”

I ignore him, stalking up the stairs like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. War, possibly. Maybe even Death.

Of course, Evie’s door doesn’t open when I turn the handle. I gave her a fucking key, didn’t I?

The door rattles in its jamb as I pound my fist against the wood. “Open up!”

Cigarette smoke warns me of Sterling’s arrival, but I couldn’t care less about having an audience right now. This woman has questions to answer, and only one of them is about the soap she finished when she fucking knew I would have to wash my sheets.

There’s a small part of me that realizes I’m being irrational. Perhaps even downright insane. But it’s like I’m outside my body right now, watching a train wreck with morbid fascination and absolutely no intention of stopping it.

“I know you’re in there!” I yell. “Open up, or I’ll break it down.”

“Listen, Owen—” Sterling begins, but he pauses for another round of door pounding. “Owen, listen to me. This isn’t—”

“Evie!” From the corner of my eye, I see a door opening down the hallway. A dark head sticks out, and I don’t have to turn to identify Willow.

“Is everything okay?” she asks.

“Yeah, yeah. Just… stay in your room.” Sterling sounds pissed off. I guess my banging isn’t helping with his hangover.

“Evie! Open this fucking door or—”

“She’s not here!” Sterling slams his hand down on the door right where I can see it. “She’s. Not. Here.” He punctuates each word with a slap.

I step back, lungs working like a bellows as I stare at him. It takes me a second to register what he’s saying, a second for the red rage to subside. “What?”

“She left for town this morning with Kat.” Sterling jabs a thumb over his shoulder. “You missed them by like fifteen minutes.” As if he doesn’t realize I’m seconds away from punching him, he adds, “We had coffee before they went. How the fuck do you think I found out about your liaison?” He says it in a shitty French accent, and dear God, I almost knock him down.

“She’s not here,” I say carefully, stepping back, swiping my hair out of my face. “She’s not here, and you let me bang on her door like an idiot?”

“In my defense, I was pretty sure you’d turn on me if I tried.” Sterling shrugs, takes another drag of his cigarette, and sips at the coffee he brought along for the trip. “You looked like you needed to get some serious rage out of your system, and I didn’t want that happening on my face.”

That’s what I keep forgetting about Sterling. Even with a hangover, he can see through all the bullshit. It’s a fucking talent.

Sterling grabs my shoulder, turns me away from Evie’s door. “Now how about we go find something to eat? I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get something extraordinarily greasy in my stomach, then I might just die.”

I let him lead me away, but a part of me still wants to break down Evie’s door, even if she’s not inside.

Why the fuck are you acting so surprised?

I knew this would happen. Girls are all fine with my dark side one minute, then run and hide the next. If I’d kept a cap on my urges—my needs—then I’d have woken up with her beside me.

Hope is a cruel mistress.

For a second there, last night, I could have sworn Evie was into it.

Guess you were just fooling yourself.

No one wants to be with a monster. Not even Evie Larsen.

That’s all until next week’s installment! If you’re aching to finish right now, though, just click below and buy the book!

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