“You should be.” He turned away from me, moving toward the fire and I held my breath for a few seconds. He was serious. He wanted me to be afraid of him.
I moved toward the set of stairs, taking my time as I headed to the second floor. He was so certain of himself, acting as if he already owned me. Even if there was a part of me that was flattered by the attention, the money spent on airplane fuel and hiring a chef, the clothes purchased just so I’d feel comfortable here, it all felt far too possessive. As I walked into the bedroom, flicking on the light, the instant I saw the number of shopping bags, not all from the boutique where I’d shopped, the roses and card entered my mind.
Was it possible it was one and the same person? If that was the case, had Gabriel been stalking me for months? Was he some kind of a crazed fan of my surgical work? I’d heard of it before, but I would have remembered if I’d operated on such a fine specimen.
I gritted my teeth, shoving another round of lurid thoughts aside. I had no business acting like a teenager.
Why not? What if this is exactly what the doctor ordered?
Yeah, my little voice could go to hell.
Why was I looking over my shoulder, nervous tension in my stomach? Because I thought he’d be standing there? Would that bother me if he was? Yes. In truth, it would. This was all so much, as if seducing me hadn’t been enough.
Only owning me would be.
I opened a few of the bags, fingering the soft sweaters and two pair of jeans. He’d even thought of snow boots, and they were in my correct size. Was it possible he’d gone to greater lengths to learn more about me than he wanted me to believe? With the internet and search engines, anything was possible. I purchased most of my clothing online late at night. A consummate hacker could find every detail of what I liked, including my food deliveries with ease.
For what purpose?
It was crazy that I hadn’t demanded his last name. Nowadays, learning a person’s name and checking all their social media platforms before accepting a date was responsible.
I’d been reckless, including having unprotected sex.
I shoved the bags aside, unable to pick through any more of them. Although I did want to change out of the dress.
The one he’d selected for me.
The one he’d demanded I wear.
What are you doing, girl? You’ve lost your mind.
I studied the bedroom for a few seconds, the huge king-size bed covered in pillows. Then I took a sharp turn into the bathroom, noticing candles had been strategically placed on the large whirlpool tub and across the counter. I backed out, moving toward the other room on the floor. The door was locked, which made me curious as to what the man was hiding. As I leaned against the wall and closed my eyes, I could swear I’d seen him somewhere before. He wasn’t a patient. I’d remember that. Maybe he’d been in the coffee shop before.
No, my body would have experienced the same reaction.
Why the hell couldn’t I remember it?
I was shaking all over, partially from adrenaline. When that happened, it was usually because my mind was working so hard to find an answer to whatever problem I was confronted with. And in most cases, I suddenly remembered the answer or had an epiphany about how to fix the situation. As I walked downstairs, he was nowhere to be seen. I listened for any sounds, but there was only the ebb and flow of the wind starting to howl outside. That alone creeped me out. I peered around the corner then moved to the entrance to another room.
The kitchen was almost as large as the living room, big enough to be considered a commercial kitchen complete with Viking appliances. The man didn’t spare any expense. There was a bottle of wine and two half-full glasses sitting on the counter, but no sign of him.
Now I suddenly had trouble reciting his name in my mind?
Why do you look so familiar? Why?
I felt a presence only seconds before an arm was wrapped around my throat, forcefully dragging me backward and against a hard body. I immediately reacted, trying to twist in order to drive my heel into his foot. It was a reaction I’d trained myself to do in case I was ever attacked. Even though I knew who’d captured me, my natural instinct had been to fight. Did that say something about my distrust or about feeling uneasy of letting go? He chuckled in my ear, jerking me even closer as he ground his cock against my bottom.
“My beautiful little bird. You wouldn’t be trying to hurt me now, would you?” he asked, although the husky growl in his voice made the words garbled.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Taking what belongs to me.”
“I don’t belong to you.” I twisted again, able to duck away from his hold. His look of amusement meant he’d expected me to pull away.
“Yes. You do.”
I laughed, darting a quick look over his shoulder. He followed my gaze, his nostrils flaring.
“If you honestly think you’re going to find safe passage outside that door, you would be wrong. There are predators everywhere.”
There was something enticing about the little game we were playing, but I sensed he’d meant what he said. He truly believed I belonged to him. When he took a step closer, I took two backwards. Then the dance was repeated. I raked my gaze down the front of him, admiring every inch of his muscular body. The man was built like no other.
“Do you like what you see, Sarah?”
“Then you need to trust me.”
“How can I do that when you all but abducted me, dragging me to another state?”
“You’re free to go anytime.” His smirk was far too beguiling. He knew exactly what he was doing to me.
“Maybe I will.” I maintained a wide arc as I passed by him, knowing exactly what he would do. When he snagged my arm, twirling me around and fisting me by the hair, stars floated in front of my eyes.
“But you will never be able to get away from me, even if you wanted to.”
Somehow, I believed him. He jerked me back, wrapping his arm around me and lowering his head. When he licked the shell of my ear, I dragged my tongue across my lips. His hot breath alone was almost enough to bring me to an orgasm. I fingered his arm, blinking as I studied the colorful design. The red rose was stunning, but the black dagger driven through it was telling. If only I knew what the translation of the Italian words underneath. I had a feeling they were important.
“Why is that?”
He shifted his hips, his actions creating a wave of heat between my legs. I was thrown by the desire roaring through me when I should be doing everything to push him away, at least until I found out everything there was to know about him. Why did he have such an effect on me?
“Because I’m the only man who could provide what you need.”
“What do you think I need?”
“Release from the chains you placed around yourself, freedom to let go of your inhibitions. Only I understand the darkness festering inside of you, the wants that drive you crazy, the needs that you can’t explain to anyone. I can smell your fear, but it’s not me you should be terrified of. It’s living the rest of your life never able to feel again, to explore your needs, to satisfy a hunger that gnaws at you every day.”
“Who are you?”
“A man cut from the same cloth, longing for the same fulfillment. That begins today. Remove your clothes.”
“Not unless you tell me your last name,” I demanded.
“I thought you enjoyed our game of remaining strangers.”
“I’m no fool, Gabriel. I live in New York, remember.”
“But I could easily tell you a lie.”
“Yes, you could. But you won’t. You have a sense of integrity that will never allow you to lie about who and what you are.”
“Very interesting. It would seem my stunning guest has taken several psychology classes.”
“It’s part of my training. I’ll know if you’re lying.”
He laughed. “Alright. I am Gabriel Riccardo. Since you know my name, it’s only fitting that I know yours.”
I took a deep breath. At least he’d told me and there was truth in his tone. I was damn good at reading people. It was something that had always helped me in practicing medicine. “Washington.”
“Sarah Washington. A perfectly American name.”
“Yes, and yours is beautifully Italian.”
“If only I’d spent more time in Sicily. My grandparents remain there. Does that satisfy your curiosity, or would you prefer taking a look at my driver’s license?”
I allowed myself to laugh, although a shiver remained. “No. I believe you.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Now, undress. And Sarah? Do not make me ask you again.” He lifted a single eyebrow, his expression commanding.
“I…” Blinking, I wasn’t certain why tears had formed in my eyes. Were they out of frustration, fear or the fact he was right about his assessment of me? Was I that transparent? “Wait a minute. How would you know what I need?” I’d never allowed any man to be dominating over me, friend or foe. In fact, I usually ate them for breakfast when they acted as if they were better, faster, or stronger. All the strange sensations about Gabriel I’d felt were coming to a head.
He wasn’t just seducing me. He was preparing to dominate me, taking full control.
“So defiant. You have no idea how much that arouses me. To answer your question, because someone of such virtue can’t handle the constant possibility of the loss of life. As if by living as a saint instead of a sinner, you’ll never lose your ability to save a life, allowing families to thrive and grow. But you’re not God, Sarah. You’re a woman with needs, desires that burn deep within you. Tell me I’m wrong and I will back away.”
Of course he wasn’t wrong. The fact he was right was the reason I was terrified.
He kept his firm hold around my neck as he brushed the fingers of his other hand across my arm and down my side. “I’ve spent far too many years believing there was no one who could ever understand me or the darkness inside. The moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you could handle the sadistic man. Does that mean I may hurt you? Yes. But I will never harm you. Do you understand the difference?”
“Yes,” I whispered. The subdued tone of my voice surprised me almost as much as the sensations burning in my thighs, the tightness in my stomach.
“If you don’t undress, I will do it for you. Then I’ll give you a stern round of punishment for disobeying me that you won’t soon forget.”
A thrill coursed through me, another shocking moment. Was I possibly excited about the thought of him punishing me again, just like before? The answer sickened me.
He released his hold, backing away and for a few seconds, I was paralyzed, uncertain what to do. If he’d wanted to do harm, that could have happened anywhere on the ride from the airport. That wasn’t his intention. Should I rest easy or press further?
“Close your eyes, Sarah.”
The way he said my name created an odd thrill, a need that kept my heart pumping and my blood pressure increasing. But I closed my eyes, allowing myself to fall into the sweet abyss that I’d wanted for as long as I could remember, but had never thought to achieve. He’d awakened something inside of me that was difficult for me to comprehend, but he was right in that I could never share it with anyone else. I took several deep breaths then untied the sash, keeping my breathing even as I slowly slid one sleeve over my shoulder then the other.
“So fucking beautiful and all mine.”
At that moment, his possessive nature excited me, and I felt beautiful. As soon as I allowed the dress to drop to the floor, I sensed his presence again and shivered.
“Relax. Trust. Remember?”
He gripped me with both hands, and I couldn’t help but think about how large they were, his fingers long and broad, his arms muscular. It was a silly thing to think about, but it helped ease some of the tension. As he rubbed them up and down my arms, I started to relax, more so than what little of my rational brain was left could handle. Then he pulled me close once again, wrapping one hand around my throat. His action wasn’t about scaring me. That much I sensed. It was about providing comfort that he would keep his promise.
I found it strange I was dissecting the moment, but the reason was obvious. I needed an excuse in order to be able to let go, losing the last vestige of fear before falling headlong into the darkness he’d mentioned. If he was a sadist, did that make me a masochist? I wasn’t certain I was prepared for the truthful answer. I’d never been that way. I’d never looked at porn on the internet or gone to BDSM clubs. I’d never asked a boyfriend to spank me for some egregious behavior.
But with him, it seemed I craved exploring something else, something… deeper. Reckless or not, I relaxed completely, my breathing normal.
“I’m going to blindfold you. That will allow you to experience a heightened state of pleasure.”
“I don’t know.”
“I’ll take it off whenever you’re uncomfortable.” The same gruffness to his voice continued, but it added to the excitement. He didn’t wait for my reply, sliding a silky mask over my eyes, tying it in such a way I couldn’t see even a glimmer of light. Then he rolled his hands over my shoulders, cupping my naked breasts. As he squeezed, I tried to remain calm, knowing he was about to explore every inch of my body. “The chef has prepared several items. However, I enjoy having dessert first.”
Tingling sensations slowly drifted down my arms and legs, keeping the adrenaline churning. I had no idea what he had planned, but I sensed his control was just beginning. He pinched my nipples with enough pressure I shuddered audibly, a sudden icy chill flowing into my muscles.
“When I fuck you tonight, you will scream out my name.”
He twisted my hardened buds, but the pain was short lived, a moment of bliss scouring my system. I was barely able to breathe, my mind a blur but given my lack of eyesight, every sound he made including his ragged breathing was amplified. So were the prickles popping along every inch of my skin. Then he lowered his hands, sliding them into my thong. I had a feeling he was going to rip it from my body, but he eased it over my hips, which was a hell of a lot more intimate.
The morning session seemed days ago, but it was still the same. I was standing naked in front of a total stranger, one with the most gorgeous body on the planet. The only difference was that I didn’t feel as embarrassed as I had before. In fact, I felt exhilarated, more alive than… this morning.
The way his fingers brushed my skin and his hot breath skipped along the back of my neck, I couldn’t stop tingling all over. His dominance was a powerful aphrodisiac, keeping me on edge while a small part of me tried to locate my sanity. Maybe everyone who’d given me advice was correct.
The darkness obviously helped with what should be another embarrassing moment. I was able to breathe easier, allowing my mind to free itself of the anxiety. After I stepped out of the thong, he pressed his groin against me once again, the light friction stimulating. He rolled his fingers in my hair then slid them down my neck. When he turned me around to face him, only then did I feel at a complete disadvantage. I wanted to bask in his masculinity, catching every nuance of the way he looked at me.
He cupped both sides of my face, rubbing his thumbs back and forth across my lips. I’d long since eaten off the lipstick, but I didn’t think he’d care one way or the other. He captured my mouth, but the kiss wasn’t rough and controlling this time as he softly parted my lips with his, tenderly sliding his tongue inside. His scent was different, and I wasn’t certain why. There was the same hint of spices, the woody fragrance that was entirely too masculine, but there was an added depth I hadn’t noticed before. It filled my nostrils, flowing through my veins. The man oozed power and control, but that no longer flagged any concern.
He kept the kiss gentle, rolling my lips open and closed. When he backed away, a tiny whimper escaped. “Put your hands in front of you.”
“From here on out, you will not question me, only follow my commands. Is that understood?”
His growl filled in several blanks.
“Better,” he said in a husky tone.
I found myself placing my hands in front of me, both fisted with my wrists together. I knew exactly what he was going to do. As I felt the first hint of rope being wound around them, I stiffened. My list of ‘nevers’ included being tied or shackled in any way.
He tied them quickly, yanking to test their strength. Then he brushed a finger down one arm then up the other. “Arms over your head.”
I struggled with the bindings, apprehension pushing me to the edge, my breathing more ragged than before.
“The harder you pull, the tighter they’ll become. I wouldn’t want you to chafe your lovely wrists.”
The sound of his voice was soothing, but there was an underlying tone that heightened my senses, nerves pooling in my stomach. I found myself following his command, my mouth and throat dry from the anticipation.
He turned me around, easing me over the edge of the kitchen table, immediately spreading my legs far apart. “Did you know there’s an art to providing just the right amount of pain to entice pleasure?”
“No, sir.” I’d never called anyone ‘sir’ in my life, including my father. Why it didn’t feel strange to me now I wasn’t certain about, but it intrigued me. He pressed his hand on the small of my back then used the fingers of his other to tease me, rolling them along the insides of my thighs.
I was wet, so much so I gathered a whiff of my desire. As he continued caressing me, disturbing thoughts raced through my mind. What if he left me this way? What if he never allowed me to leave?
The more ridiculous they became, the more current raced through my muscles. I couldn’t stop trembling as he rubbed his fingers over almost every inch of my back and legs.
“Perhaps one day you’ll wear my mark permanently. For now, we’ll begin your lessons in obedience.”
His mark? I longed to see his naked body, to touch his heated skin. What little I’d been allowed to do hours before wasn’t enough. I needed to explore all of him. After rolling fingers of both hands down my spine, he cupped both ass cheeks, digging his fingers in and lifting my pelvis off the table. Then he issued a growl and within seconds, he slipped his tongue around my clit, swirling the tip in circles.
“Oh…” The angle pressed my face into the cool wood, the tingling sensations incredible.
He spread me wide open, giving him full access. Within seconds, I was in a sweet moment of bliss, panting from the dancing vibrations.
Every sound he made was guttural, amplified more than they should be. He continued for several seconds until my pussy clenched and released. Then he pulled away completely.
Gasping, I lifted my head, longing for him to continue.
“Not yet,” he muttered as if knowing what I was prepared to beg. I sensed he took another step away. Then I heard a sound, a moan escaping.
He was unfastening his belt.
“What do you hear?” he asked.
“The rustle of clothes.”
“Yes. And what am I going to do with it?”
I shuddered from the realization. “Whip me.”
“I would never use a whip on your beautiful skin. However, I will spank you as often as necessary both for discipline as well as to heighten your pleasure. Tonight is all about the latter, but I suspect the strap will be used often given you are very disobedient.”
“Not true. I’ve been trained to follow rules.”
“I do so like the sound of that. Your compliance will make everything that much easier.”
His choice of words seemed strange, enough so my heart thudded several times.
“For you to accept that there is a fine line where pain and pleasure become so intense that they are no longer distinguishable. I will bring you to both points. Accepting the rules of doing so will enhance the experience.” He cracked his belt across my bottom with the very intensity he was talking about.
“Oh, God.” I was immediately thrown into a cataclysm of fire and electricity, the anguish having no beginning or end. When he cracked another one in exactly the same place, I jerked up from the table, my body twisting.
Gabriel immediately yanked me back down, once again pressing his hand on the small of my back, rolling what felt like his thumb back and forth.
“Breathe, sweet Sarah. Allow the discomfort to resonate through your muscles.”
There was no choice, my entire body spasming.
“Soon, you’ll experience pleasure.”
I heard the snapping sound of his wrist and bristled, preparing for another series of strikes. They came within seconds, but the sensations were entirely different. Three more and I was wetter than before, juice trickling between my thighs.
He caressed me again then my skin was tickled by his hair as he lowered his head, thrusting his tongue inside my pussy.
“Oh, yes. Yes…” A smile crossed my face as he lapped up the cream, growling like a predatory beast. He pushed at least two fingers inside, the orchestration almost bringing me to an orgasm, the anguish from before all but forgotten. As he’d done before, he brought me close then shifted back to spanking me.
Breathless, I had no idea how long the session lasted or how many times I came close to a climax, but I’d been shoved into raw ecstasy by both experiences. Exhausted, when he fisted my head, lowering his head and crushing his mouth over mine, I kept my eyes closed, unable to move a muscle. He was so forceful in every action, taking exactly what he wanted. There was no option, but I no longer wanted any physical freedom. Only the sweet release that he’d provided for my mind.
After sucking on my tongue for a few seconds, he chuckled darkly then turned me over. He planted his hands on either side of me, leaning over and dragging his tongue beseechingly slowly down my stomach, blowing heated air across my clit.
“Now, I feast, providing pleasure. You were a very good girl.” I heard the sound of legs of a chair being scraped across the floor and assumed he’d sat down. He said nothing, almost as if he’d walked away.
I chewed on my lower lip, undulating back and forth on the table.
Then I heard another low-slung growl, the tone so ripe with emotion that it floored me. The man was famished.
As he gathered my legs into his arms, I refused to blink, longing to watch every second of the man devouring me. I fisted my hands, trying to keep my arms in place. I also wanted to touch him, to tangle my fingers in his thick hair.
He raked his fingers along the crack of my ass, teasing me by pressing a single tip against my dark hole. He was telling me without words what he planned on doing. The man was determined to claim me in every way.
The thought excited the hell out of me.
Every move he made was possessive, but all I could concentrate on was the intensity of the sensations, the white-hot heat searing through my system. He sucked on my swollen clit then licked up and down several times.
He took his time, savoring every inch of me, using his finger in conjunction with his tongue. I couldn’t stop quivering as he kept me split wide open. He’d been right in that every feeling, every slight touch was magnified, keeping my pulse racing and my mind a fuzzy blur. He knew exactly what he was doing to me, the ecstasy he was dragging me toward.
I lolled my head, trying to catch my breath as he brought me close to sweet release and I was certain he was going to back off just like he’d done before.
After pressing kisses on one inner thigh then the other, he pinched my clit. “Now, you’re going to come for me when I tell you to.”
“I don’t think…” I couldn’t come on command. There was no way.
“Yes, you will.”
He buried his head in my pussy, his animalistic sounds filtering into my ears. I was more lightheaded than before, panting like some crazed animal. All I could do was concentrate on my breathing as I was brought close. Closer…
“Come for me. Come. Now!”
I was shocked that my body responded to his command, bottle rockets of nirvana stealing my voice. I tossed my head back and forth, bucking hard as he plunged his tongue inside. The sounds he made licking up my cream were raw and filthy, heightening the pure ecstasy. I was thrown by how intense the moment felt, the live wire of electricity shooting from one part of my body to another.
When a single orgasm became a giant wave, I finally let out a ragged moan that filtered throughout the entire kitchen. But there was no time to relax and recover, no rest for the weary.
The predator was hungry for more.
And there was nothing I could do.