“Enough talk.” He heads to the stairs purposefully, and my fear increases exponentially with each step. The stairs to the loft are narrow and run up one side of the wall. He takes them two at a time. At the top he dumps me on the bed. I roll over on my back. He’s looming over me, and all I can think is how big he is, how big and how muscular, how powerful. My heart is hammering in my chest.
I’ve made a mistake. That’s all I can think as I watch him peel off his black t-shirt. It all feels so wrong. I’d prepared myself for a middle-aged man with gray chest hair and a paunch who’d come at me with a modest erection jutting the front of his boxers. This man has the physique of a Greek god. He’s the kind of man a woman should respond to, but I’m petrified as he tosses his shirt aside and eases in one catlike motion onto the bed. He slides his body over mine, resting on his elbows.
He reaches for the neckline of my shirt.
“Should I rip this off?” His fingers curl onto the fabric, stretching it down until the swell of my breasts is visible to his gaze. He’s put the question to me in a low, dangerous voice. What he says next is even more ominous. “I could do it. I could rip your clothes off, flip you over, and ram my cock into you without a shred of foreplay. I could muffle your cries with my hand as I fuck your virgin pussy and then your ass.”
“Don’t…” I’m crying now. I hear the shake in my voice. I smell the tang of my own fear sweat. I’ve never been so scared in my life. “Please don’t.”
“It’s a little late to be asking that now, don’t you think? The auction agreement permits me to—and I quote—deflower and train the virgin Maeve Clarke.” He chuckles. “Deflower. What an old-fashioned word, as if you’re some pure blossom in a field. Well, let me tell you something, princess. There’s nothing pure about a woman who puts a price on her body. Or her safety.”
He releases me, and the disapproval I saw in his eyes earlier is back. He lifts himself off me, and I raise up on my elbows, staring at him. I slowly sit up. I blink back tears of shame.
“If you were so morally opposed to fucking a virgin, then why did you bid?” I’ve gone from fearful to angry.
“I had my reasons. For now we’ll leave it at need.”
“Need?” I shake my head, confused. “What do you need?”
“Not me, you. I intend to see that you fulfill the contract. It provides for personal training, and that’s something you need. If you’re a quick study and do as I say, I might just consider fucking you. If you’re lucky.”
“If I’m lucky?” I feel like I’ve been slapped across the face. I scramble to a seated position. “Listen, you son-of-a-bitch. I wouldn’t want to put you to the trouble of either training”—I emphasize the word with dramatic air quotes—“or fucking me. I may be a virgin, but I don’t have to be experienced to know the touch of an arrogant asshole wouldn’t be at all satisfying.”
And this is where I push him. This is where I go too far. I should keep my mouth shut, but I don’t.
“Maybe that’s what this is all about. Maybe you think the only way you can get a woman interested is to force her into it.”
I can’t describe the look on his face, but in that instant I’m reminded of the previous day when the mountainside went from placid to stormy with frightening speed. He grabs me again, and pushes me back down on the bed.
“Force?” he asks. “That’s certainly one way it could go, especially for a woman who offers herself to strangers.” As he talks he reaches for the button of my blue jeans. I hear it snap and then two strong hands jerk the fabric down. I feel the cool air of the room raise goosebumps on my thighs. Then I feel something else, the lightest pressure brushing the mound of my pussy through the thin fabric of my panties. I jerk from the sensation, which takes me by surprise.
“Here’s another scenario for you.” His tone is controlled now, almost hypnotic. “What if I take it slow. Real slow. What if I show you where a man touches a woman to make her melt, to make her fucking beg for it?” I try to clench my thighs together, but his hand is between them. His gaze is locked on mine, holding it captive. I feel his finger slide inside my panties. And now he’s touching me where no man has ever touched me. His fingertip slides up through the cleft of my pussy. The touch is just grazing my inner labia, and then it stops. I feel his finger move against me and my body suddenly seems to have been hotwired into sensory overdrive. I feel a clenching in my core, a pulse. My nipples get rock hard. I know this. It’s arousal. I’ve felt it when masturbating, but this is different. This is sudden and unexpected and uncontrollable and feral. He’s moving his finger and I can’t see what he’s doing, but in my mind’s eye, I imagine a spring between my leg that’s being wound and wound and wound by his persistent touch.
“You’re a virgin, so you don’t understand how a man can play your body, control it…”
I don’t say anything, but I’m getting the picture already. My body is thrumming with pent-up sexual energy, and I’m hypnotized by his words as he continues.
“With the right man? A woman loses control. That’s because the right man will use everything in his arsenal to conquer her body until she squirms and begs and comes. He’ll use his fingers, his mouth, his cock. And when it’s over, he’ll have put his stamp on her. He’ll own her, no matter where else she goes in life. He’ll own her…”
I’m helpless to him. I hear myself panting. My legs spread of their own volition. It’s going to happen. He’s going to fuck me. It’s not going to be so bad after all. In fact, my body needs it. It needs the release. The spring between my legs is so tight that it physically hurts. I arch myself toward him.
And then he moves away.
I stare up at him.
He smiles down at me and sticks the finger he’d been using on my pussy in his mouth. “Mmm,” he says. “Sweet.” Then he pauses. “Like I said, princess. You’re in need of the lessons I’m going to teach you. This is the first one. You can lie all you want but your body always tells the truth.”
I don’t know what to say. My pussy is still pulsing with an ache that feels like hunger. Tears of frustration fill my eyes and spill over to course down cheeks flushed with humiliation.
“You’re going to take a nap now,” he says. “And you’re not going to touch yourself. You’re not allowed to relieve the ache I know you’re feeling. Your body belongs to me, remember? You sold it. That means I decide when and if you finally get to come. I’m going to be downstairs, but I’ll be listening. A moan, the creak of the bedsprings, if I so much as hear any sound indicating that you’re pleasuring yourself, I’ll take this belt I’m wearing and welt your ass. Got it?”
I nod. What else can I do? As soon as he leaves the loft, I pull up my pants, turn over, and sob myself to sleep.
I jolt awake to the feel of a slap on my ass and gasp as I sit upright. I’m momentarily disoriented as my eyes adjust and I remember where I am. I sit up on the bed. Through the window I can see that darkness has fallen. How long have I been asleep?
I get to my feet. Atticus Noble calls for me to come downstairs. I stand up and button the snap on my jeans, my face heating anew at the memory of what happened before I fell asleep.
I descend the steps of the loft. I can hear noise in a room off the kitchen. I assume that’s the bathroom. He must be in there, and here I am, alone in the main room. And there’s the door. It would be so easy to leave, to take the ATV. He left the key in it. I ponder the possibility.
There’s motion to my left, the sound of nails on the hardwood floor, and then a growl. I turn and scream at what I see.
“Bane!” My captor’s voice booms through the room and the wolf drops to the floor. His posture at the sound of his master’s voice is submissive, but he’s still staring at me with hazel eyes full of challenge.
I can’t move for fear. Atticus walks over and leans down to ruffle the wolf’s coat with his huge hand.
“Sorry,” he says, as if I’m a houseguest. “I should have warned you that I let him back in.”
“Back in?” I stare from him to the wolf in disbelief. For a brief moment, everything else is forgotten. “He’s… yours?” I can’t help but stare. I’ve never known anyone who had a wolf. I know now this is the one I heard upon walking in the woods, and the one that was looking at me from the top of the rocks.
“Yeah. I found him when he was a cub. His mom had been shot by a hunter. I followed her blood trail back to the cave. His siblings were all starved to death. He was barely hanging on. I nursed him back to health.” The wolf looks up at him and cocks his head. The big man smiles, turns and beckons me to follow.
“That’s when I decided to buy the mountain,” he says. “There aren’t many wolves left in these parts, but at least the ones on this ridge are safe.”
I take one last look at the wolf, which has risen to pad its way after the man who saved its life. I follow the two of them to a surprisingly roomy bathroom with a huge claw foot tub. Steam rises from the water. A metal stand by the tub holds a cake of soap and shampoo. A fresh change of clothes and underwear in what I know is my size lays folded neatly on a chair. He was prepared for my coming here.
“The rule still applies,” he says, and we both know what he’s talking about. I swallow a retort, my mind drawn to his threat as my gaze is drawn to the thick leather belt around his waist. The notion of being beaten fills me with dread.
“You have twenty minutes,” he says. “Come on, Bane.”
Man and wolf leave the bathroom. There’s no lock on the door, but why would there be? He doesn’t strike me as a man who entertains very much. I wonder if I’m the first human visitor he’s had.
I strip off my filthy, sweaty clothes. I smell vaguely of dirt and sweat. I sink into the water and savor the first moment of pleasant relaxation I’ve had since waking up in the woods. I drop my head beneath the surface and rise to sitting, wiping the water away from my face. I reach for the cake of soap. It’s good quality, French-milled, and lathers like a dream, but the lavender is so mild I can barely detect it. The shampoo is the same. I remember his words. Some men prefer the natural scent of a woman. I blush and can’t help but recall the feel of those long fingers between my legs, of how he licked my essence off his fingers. My pussy begins to throb like a pulse. I squeeze my thighs together in a bid to stop it, but that only serves to make it worse.
I wash quickly. The temptation to disobey Atticus Noble’s no-touch rule is escalating, and although I don’t think he’d know, I’m afraid to take the chance. I use my solitary time in the bath to try to sort out how to get myself out of this mess. What would Elliot do in a situation like this? Probably nothing. Elliot’s skills are all computer-related. He’d be as fucked—or not fucked—as I am.
He’s gotten me a dress. It’s made of a soft, stretchy material and surprisingly plain. I put on the plain white bra and panties he’s left and pull the dress over my head. It skims my curves without hugging them, its soft flowing cut allowing movement. There are no shoes. He’s taken my boots along with the dirty clothes.
I run a comb I find through my damp hair and then leave the bathroom. I find Atticus sitting on the sofa, reading a book. I catch the title—The Idea of Wilderness. He lays it down as I approach. Cheese and bread and fruit are laid in a long wooden bowl on the table in front of the sofa. Beside it are two glasses and a bottle of wine.
“It’s a 1991 Henschke,” he says, pouring each of us a glass.
I take a seat in one of the two chairs on the other side of the table.
“Feel better?” he asks, handing me my glass.
I nod. “Yes, thank you.” I take a sip of the wine. It’s exquisite. He’s swirling his in the glass, watching me as he does.
“You can ask your questions now,” he says.
“What’s going to happen next?”
He takes a sip of his wine and sighs. “What do you think is going to happen?”
“I don’t know.” I look over at the fire dancing in the grate of the stove. “Nothing is going as planned.”
“And you’re surprised by that? You sell your freedom and are shocked by the consequences?”
“I’m not stupid,” I say defensively. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
“And how was it supposed to be, Maeve?”
The sound of his voice saying my name sends an odd shudder through me. His large hand rubs his square jaw thoughtfully as he looks at me.
“It was supposed to be… predictable,” I say. “At least to a point. I figured I’d go to some penthouse in New York or London or Dubai. I’d lie beneath some older man with my eyes closed until it was over. Then I’d endure him for a month, pretending to enjoy sex with him as he showered me with gifts. At the end of the month, I’d leave a wealthy woman.”
“You have a very distorted notion of wealth,” he says.
“Why?” I ask. “Because I sold myself to the highest bidder? It must be nice to sit on a mountaintop and judge the motives of common people. And easier when you own the mountain.”
“That’s fair,” he says. “But it doesn’t change anything, Maeve. For centuries man has handed himself over for enslavement, thinking it would mean security and comfort. But in the end, it’s just enslavement, and you’re at the mercy of your master.”
“Is that how you see yourself?” I ask. “As my master.”
He leans forward. His eyes are glittering in the firelight. “For now? Yes,” he says.
“And what does that mean?” I ask.
“It means that I’m not ready to answer all the questions you have right now. It means that whatever I do, even if it scares you, even if it hurts and makes you cry, is for your own good. Understand?”
“How can you expect me to understand? I don’t even know you.”
“So you only trust people you know?” he asks. “You might want to rethink that.”
I start to ask what he means but he’s gotten up to stoke the fire.
“Stand up, Maeve,” he says when he turns back to face me.
“Take your dress off.”
“Don’t ask questions. You wanted to know what happens next. This is what happens next. Take your dress off.”
I keep my eyes down as I raise the hem of my new dress and pull it over my head. When I look up, I see Atticus rise from his chair and move toward me. Wait. Move is the wrong word. He’s prowling toward me. From beside the stove, his wolf—its head resting on massive paws—follows his master’s motions with his eyes.
Atticus walks behind me. When I start to turn, he tells me not to move. He silently runs his hand through my hair from the temple up through the crown. I’m forced to lean my head back against the pressure as he drags his fingers through my freshly washed waves.
His hands move to my lower back. He unhooks my bra and pushes it forward so that it slides down my arms and falls to the floor.
I obey, slowly. Even though the room is warm, my up-thrust nipples are achingly hard. Atticus Noble stares down at my breasts. He lifts his hand and places it, palm up, under my right breast, then lifts, as if testing the weight. He does the same to its twin, then takes both my nipples between his fingers and thumbs. He applies pressure, rolling them, and I hear myself gasp, and then cry out as he squeezes suddenly, and hard.
“Ow… ow… owwww…” I grasp his hands at the wrists and try to push them away. He squeezes harder.
“Stop!” I cry. “Please.”
“Move your hands,” he says.
“Stop!” I push harder. He squeezes harder, then twists. I cry out and lower my hands to my sides. It takes all my effort. He keeps his tight grip on my nipples for a moment longer as I whimper. And just when the sensitive tips start to go numb from the pressure, he lets go and there’s a whole new kind of pain as the blood rushes back into the tissue.
“You have beautiful breasts,” he says. “Very sensitive. I can imagine them clamped. Would you like that?”
I shake my head. I don’t think I would. He responds with a low chuckle. “Oh, I think you would.”
He kneels and hooks his fingers in the waistband of my panties and skims them down over my hips. They pool at my feet. He brushes two fingers across the mound of my labia.
“Your pussy is so smooth,” he says. “Kind of makes me wonder who told a virgin that shaving her pussy would make it more attractive?” He trails a finger down my closed cleft. I’m trying to ignore the sensation but feel the moisture start to seep through the seam.
It was Elliot who suggested full body electrolysis, as an investment, but I don’t tell Atticus that. “I read somewhere that men prefer it,” I say instead.
He chuckles. “A virgin studying what men like. Maybe you should have asked a real man. A smooth pussy is fine, but not all men prefer it. A lot of men like those soft curls. They like a woman’s pussy to look like a woman’s pussy.”
He parts my labia then. “You’re wet,” he says, and grins. A wolfish grin. His teeth are white in his tanned face as he looks up at me.
“Grab the back of that chair and steady yourself,” he says.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because I’m going to have a taste,” he says.
I do as he says, and instantly realize why he told me to grip the chair. My knees almost buckle at the feel of his tongue gliding up through my slit. I groan and throw my head back. He twirls the tip of it over my labial folds, and when I start to move away, I feel his two strong hands gripping my ass possessively. I can’t move now, and his face is buried between my legs. It’s a complete contradiction. This huge man is kneeling before me, but even on bended knee he is in complete and utter control.
The sudden coil of tension I felt on the bed returns with a vengeance. I arch my back away from his hands, tilting my pelvis toward his face. I want… I want… I don’t know what I want. There’s a slow fuse between my legs and I’m waiting for the explosion. But again, he stops.
“Don’t…” I say with a strangled sob. “Don’t do this again.”
“Now, now,” he says. “You don’t give the orders, remember?”
There’s mockery in his voice. Even though he’s not touching me, I’m still riding the edge of a climax that he won’t allow me to have. He stands, spins me around, pushes me over the back of the chair.
He’s spreading my ass cheeks now, and I look back to see him remove something from his pocket. I immediately recognize it as a butt plug, albeit a small one.
“No. Please…” In my scenarios, something like this would come later—much later—after I’d gotten used to sex. But Atticus Noble seems committed to keeping me off balance. When I try to rise, the room resounds with the sound of a crack and my right buttock suffuses with pain where he’s struck me.
“Hold still,” he says. “Move again, and you’ll get the belt. Hold still, and you’ll be rewarded.”
Fear roots my feet to the floor. I feel the cool rounded tip of the glass plug slide against my labia. He’s turning and twirling it against my pussy, and my body rewards him with a fresh flood of lubricant. A few moments later, I feel the tip of the plug pressing against my anus.
He pulls my left buttock away from my right as he applies more pressure. I know from what I’ve read that I should relax, but I’m tense and tight. The pressure from the plug grows greater. I feel my sphincter concede to the invasion, and a slight sting as the plug breaches my body’s defense and slides in. The small flange at the end keeps it from entering completely.
“Good girl.” Atticus places a hand on my back and moves it up and down in a soothing motion. “You held still while I plugged your ass. Now you’ll be rewarded.”
His other hand moves around my front to snake between my legs. His fingers find my clit. One expertly pulls back the hood while the other makes direct contact with the most sensitive portion of my anatomy. He’s applying just enough pressure to make me gasp and squirm. All the tension, all sensation, coalesces between my legs. He rubs, presses, caresses, teases. I’m vaguely aware of his rough cheek against my shoulder, his muscular chest against my back. But I’m acutely aware of feel of his finger that’s sliding up and down through my slick folds to circle and press my clitoris.
And then it happens. The explosion of pleasure rips through me like a sunburst. My pussy ripples and quakes. I grip the sofa back, glad for the support. Without Atticus pinning me where I am, I’d slide onto the floor from an orgasm so powerful it’s left me weak.
He helps me to standing and turns me around. Wordlessly, he leans down and hands me my dress before going to sit back on the sofa. He refills both our wineglasses and then picks up his book as if nothing has happened. I sit gingerly on the sofa and pick up my wineglass. Anyone walking in at this moment would think we are a couple enjoying a quiet evening. The reality is far stranger. I’m sitting across from the man I sold myself to. He just shoved a glass plug into my ass before giving me the most powerful orgasm of my life. And I’m still a virgin.
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