Sweet Temptation(2)

By: Maya Banks


“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, knowing that even if she dared, she wouldn’t have been able to speak around the knot in her throat. She kissed the shaft of the whip and laid it carefully at his feet.

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.





CHAPTER 1



HOUSTON, TEXAS

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.

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