Sweet Temptation eBook: Page1
Maya Banks (2010)
Angelina Moyano watched from a distance as Micah Hudson stood over the two headstones in the small graveyard. She studied him from behind a large oak tree, her small hands gripping the rough bark. It was always like this. At dawn he’d come to honor their memories. Just as he did every year.
The sun’s rays were barely peeking over the horizon, but the Florida humidity was already thick and heavy, each breath a struggle in the cloying heat. She chanced a look over her shoulder, damning her paranoia that she’d been followed, but she couldn’t afford to take chances. Seeing nothing, she turned her attention back to Micah.
He knelt at Hannah’s grave and carefully laid a single yellow rose, her favorite, just below the marble slab that marked her death. He kissed his thumb and the ridge of his forefinger then laid his hand over the flat ground.
Angelina sucked in her breath. It was different this year. Before he’d always stood there looking so haunted, his eyes filled with grief and regret. This year . . . this year he seemed to be saying good-bye.
Her eyes filled with tears when he turned to David’s grave and drew a simple rosary from his pocket. He kissed the beads and then laid them at her brother’s headstone.
Sadness knotted her throat. She missed them too. She missed Micah, but he was as lost to her as David and Hannah. Maybe now he was ready. Ready to let go. He had grieved long enough. She had grieved long enough.
He rose, shoving his hands into his pockets. For a long moment he simply stood there as the early morning light grew a little brighter.
Warmth flooded the place where Micah stood, and Angelina took it as a sign that it was time.
“I love you,” she whispered, letting the wind carry her words away.
When he finally turned and walked back toward his truck, she waited only long enough that she wouldn’t be seen, before she darted back to her car. She would have to hurry if she was going to get to Twilight before he did.
It was where he always went after he paid his homage to his former wife and David, his best friend. Only Angelina understood the need that drove him. Only she understood his pain, knew his private demons. She would help him because she could do nothing else. She’d loved him far too long. Maybe now he could finally love her in return.
She took the shortest route to the club and whipped into the back parking lot ten minutes later. Though it operated twenty-four hours a day, at this time of the morning it was usually empty, and she knew that was one of the reasons Micah always chose this time to come.
Grabbing her bag, she hurried inside the employee entrance and checked with Rose, who manned the front door.
“I’m here, Rose. Just give me a minute to change. If he gets here, put him in room one. ”
“Hey, baby. I see him walking up now, so scoot on back so he doesn’t see you. ”
“Thanks, Mama Rose. ” She blew a kiss to the older woman and ran for the dressing room.
She didn’t go for garish dress-up. No leather, no high-heeled boots. No, save for the mask that protected her identity, she went with black jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt. Her long, dark hair was drawn into a braid and tucked down her shirt. She was as nondescript as they came.
The last item was the leather mask that covered her from the neck up. Only her eyes were visible, and they blended with the dark leather, dark, almost black.
David would have killed her if he were alive. He and Hannah would both be horrified that David’s little sister was for all practical purposes a surrogate daughter to a woman who owned one of Miami’s most successful bondage clubs.
Micah would look at her with those dark eyes and ask her what the hell a little girl like her was doing in a place like this.
And it was all because of him.
A soft knock at her door had her whirling around as Mama Rose stuck her head in.
“He’s ready for you. ”
Angelina nodded and walked out the door and down the hall to one of the flogging rooms. When she entered, she sucked in her breath so hard her chest hurt.
Her reaction to him never dimmed. The sight of such a powerful, proud man standing in the middle of the room, bared to the waist, his hands high above him, tied to a spreader. He was utterly magnificent.
On another man, his pose might seem submissive. Weak. Only she knew better. Underneath the seemingly calm surface was a man who seethed with emotion. Dark and boiling. And she would call it to the surface.
His head rose when he heard her footsteps. There was a vulnerability to his eyes she hadn’t seen in the past. As if the emotion bubbled that much closer to the surface. Before he’d buried it, only releasing it with his pain.
Not everyone would understand his needs. But she did. Oh, how she did. She would set him free. She would give him what he needed.
“I need . . . Don’t go easy,” he said in a low voice.
She nodded her acceptance of his request. She alone understood his need for this kind of pain. They were more alike than he would ever know.
She uncoiled the whip and let the end fall to the floor as she circled behind him. Such beauty. His back was broad, his waist lean and narrow. The muscles tensed and bunched between his shoulder blades as he readied himself for her strike.
How long she had practiced, relentlessly perfecting her method, so she would never disappoint him. He was safe in her hands.
The first lash landed against his skin with a deafening crack. He jerked but quickly righted himself and went still, awaiting the next. She flicked her wrist again, exerting just the right amount of force, and placed an identical stripe across from the first.
She forced herself to relax, to not allow the welling emotion to bubble up. Calmly and methodically she kissed his back with the lash, watching as he jumped and bowed under the whip.
Sweat glistened on his back, dampened his hair until it fell in limp curls past his neck. Still she continued, sensing he needed more. She striped one side then the other, working a path down to his waist.
As she worked her way back up, blood beaded and shone in the low light. Finally. Release. Lightly, like a lover’s kiss, she whispered the whip across his shoulders until they were slick with blood.
It was like making a cut in a festering wound. The relief was profound, as pressure—and pain—escaped the seething cauldron. His hands clenched in their bonds, his wrists flexing as he raised his head, looking upward as if he was seeking redemption.
With every stroke, she lavished him with her love. It would have seemed bizarre to someone who didn’t understand. An unacceptable outlet for many. But this was his way. She accepted it, as she did him.
A heavy sigh escaped him, the only sound he made the entire time. His shoulders drooped, and she knew it was enough. She let the whip fall and walked around to face him.
His eyes were closed, but his cheeks were streaked with tears. Her own eyes clouded with moisture. He’d never cried for them. Not at the funeral. Not at the graves. Not afterward when he’d driven her home. And then he’d simply disappeared, dealing with his grief as he did everything else. Alone.
She ached to hold him, to tell him it was all right, that Hannah and David loved him too. That she loved him. That he didn’t have to be alone any longer.
Instead she stepped forward and cupped his face lovingly in her hands. She pressed a kiss to his forehead and whispered in a husky voice he’d never recognize, “Vaya en paz. ”
Go in peace.
As she stepped away, he looked up at her with glazed, unfocused eyes. Another tear slipped down his cheek, marking a raw trail on his face.
“Thank you,” he said in a husky voice.
She simply nodded, kno
She left the room on shaky legs, knowing Mama Rose waited to free Micah and to attend him in whatever way necessary. She also knew he’d refuse the older woman’s attentions and would be gone within minutes.
She shed her mask, for the last time. It was all she could do not to run back down the hall and throw her arms around him, beg him to take her with him. Letting him go instilled in her a fierce ache. Because this time he wouldn’t be back. With that realization, she knew that it was now or never for her. She’d given Micah the time he needed to heal. Now it was up to her to go to him. Show him it was okay to love again.
He might not be coming back to Miami, but there was nothing to stop her from going to Houston. She had to go. She couldn’t stay here. It wasn’t safe, and Micah was all she had to run to.
He didn’t see her right away. His view of her was obscured by the typical eclectic mix of sexcapades. Business as usual on a Saturday night at The House. The common room where people met to play and act on their fantasies was alive with the sounds and smells of sex.
Micah Hudson sauntered farther into the room, his gaze scanning the erotic mix of flesh. It struck him—as he paused to stare at a beautiful woman being pleasured by an equally beautiful woman—that he was bored. Restless. Cagey even.
His concentration left the pair when he heard the unmistakable slap of leather against skin and a breathless sound of pleasure that rose and quivered around his ears. Beckoning him. Where?
And then he saw her. Small, curvy and striking. Her nude body glowed in the soft lighting, her skin a light creamy brown, hinting at Hispanic heritage. Her hair slid like a waterfall over her shoulders, parted down her spine by the slither of a whip as it met her flesh again.
He couldn’t see her face, and suddenly he wanted to very much. Were her eyes closed in ecstasy, her face soft and warm with pleasure?
Her rounded buttocks shook slightly as her body swayed in the grip of the whip. Her feet moved, arched and then replanted as she braced herself. It was much like a dance, her rhythm intoxicating and erotic.
High above her head, her hands flexed and tightened against the rope that held her wrists captive. Her skin rippled over her shoulder blades as they dipped and caused a slight hollow. Then she relaxed again, and her low moan drifted to him once again.
Beautiful. She was fucking beautiful.
Desire whispered through his veins, gathering momentum, moving faster, surging through his groin. His dick tightened painfully, and he shifted to alleviate the uncomfortable tension.
No longer able to stand watching from afar, he moved forward, working his way through the crowd. Around the people watching the flogging. He circled so that he could see her profile.
Disappointment settled into his chest when he saw the half mask covering her eyes.
His gaze traveled over her luscious, plump lips that were perfectly bowed and untarnished by lipstick. They parted again as another sensuous gasp escaped from her throat.
He could no longer hear the slap of leather or the conversation around him. The sounds of the other occupants fell away, and all he could hear was her.
Her breasts, high and firm, smaller than he usually liked, jiggled when she endured another blow. The nipples, brown, darker than her skin, erect and puckered, soft looking . . . What would they taste like? How would they feel in his mouth? Between his fingers?
His fingers curled. He could feel the slight weight of the globes in his palms as surely as if he were standing in front of her, measuring their size with his hands.
She was a perfect hourglass, her hips slightly wider than her waist, her belly flat and drawing attention to the soft curls between her thighs. They were dark like the fall of hair spilling over her shoulders, and they shielded her femininity, revealing nothing of what lay beneath.
But he could imagine. Oh yes, he could feel her damp heat as he parted the tender folds and delved beyond the silky curls. He’d stroke a finger over her clit and then trail lower to her center, stroking inward, feeling the clasp of her pussy sucking him deeper.
Jesus. Sweat beaded his brow, and his cock swelled and strained against his fly.
What about her did it for him? It wasn’t as if he didn’t see women like this in The House all the time. Was it the mystery? Was it her arresting beauty? Or maybe it was the way she arched and bowed her body, seeking the kiss of the whip even as she flinched away.
She was into it in a big way. Deep. Her eyes were closed, but he was sure they were dark like the rest of her. Those sumptuous lips puckered and parted, opened and closed. She made the most delicious, arousing noises, and he wasn’t the only one affected.
Other men watched, as transfixed by the sight as Micah was. Lust blazed in their eyes. They wanted her, but so did he.
Oh yeah, so did he.
He started forward again, his entire concentration on her, on the man making her writhe beneath the whip.
Cole looked up as Micah neared, and he paused, whip held high in the air. And then as if sensing his approach, the woman turned her head and opened her eyes.
Liquid heat exploded through his body. Her eyes were so expressive, so bright with passion, and she didn’t look away once their gazes collided. He could drown in those dark pools.
Her lips trembled, and for a moment he sensed deep vulnerability, a fact that made him suddenly fiercely possessive.
No, he couldn’t look away any more than she could, and he waited for what he wanted. Acceptance.