Sophie flinched. Intimacy? Was she ready for that?
No. Hell no.
The last time she’d been intimate and let her guard down, a man had gotten inside her heart, and then nearly killed her when he walked away. That had been five years ago and the pain had only barely started to ease. She couldn’t live through that again, couldn’t bear to be on the end of a one-sided relationship at the end of the day. Sophie was convinced Unrequited Love was her middle name. And she had no intention of sharing herself so openly again. The last time she’d really cared about a guy, she’d made the mistake of sharing her job with him. Letting him see how important her work was hadn’t brought them closer. Instead it had driven him away. She couldn’t erase the look on his face from her mind, either, as though she’d lost her sanity when she tried to tell him she was helping to save lives by writing her articles and researching cold cases for patterns. He’d said her interest in the morbid subject was “unhealthy” and she should be writing articles about house decoration tips, or recipes for parties, as though her career was little more than a glorified hobby.
Sophie would never forget how she’d felt when he’d left: torn between rage and hurt, tears burning her eyes, and her throat so tight she couldn’t breathe. The worst thing in the world was opening yourself up and being rejected. She couldn’t let that happen again, not on Emery’s terms, when he was demanding an emotional intimacy she couldn’t give him.
It was time to leave. She’d get her story another way and figure out who had kidnapped him without risking herself in the process. She slid off the stool, her worn ballet flats silent as they touched the ground. Slowly she reached for her clutch purse on the counter, training her eyes on Emery’s body as he kept his back to her, cooking the eggs. Her heart kicked into a panicked rhythm as she struggled to remain calm, stealthy in her escape.
The smell of his cooking was heavenly, wrapping around her, teasing her stomach to the point that it grumbled. Loudly. Sophie froze. But Emery must not have heard her stomach because he didn’t turn around. Thank God, she thought and quickly tiptoed toward the kitchen door. With one longing glance over her shoulder at Emery, she didn’t see the hulking mass blocking her path until it was too late.
She collided with solid muscle and large hands fell to her shoulders, rooting her in place as she prepared to struggle.
“Say, Emery, your little sub’s making a run for it,” announced a familiar voice.
The man who held her still was none other than Royce, Emery’s friend from the club, the one who’d brought her right to Emery and practically shoved her into his lap.
Emery didn’t even turn around. He merely laughed. Cocky bastard.
“Thanks Royce. That saves my bodyguard the trouble of tracking her down before I unleashed the pack of wild dogs on her.”
Wild dogs? He’s kidding, he’s totally kidding. Sophie bit her lip and tried to push Royce’s hands off her shoulders. Emery rotated halfway to face her, oven mitt on his hand as he held a skillet on the stove.
“She’s too sweet to feed to your wolf pack. Let me take her home. I’ll make her behave. A good twenty whacks on the ass will put her to rights. She’ll be on her knees, eyes all adoring and asking what would please her Master,” Royce boasted.
“Yeah, not likely.” Sophie bristled and kicked his knee. He didn’t show even a hint of pain, and she’d kicked him hard, hard enough that any other man would have been hopping around the kitchen clutching his shin and moaning. Royce just gave her a wolfish smile and a devious wink.
“I’ll cuff her for you,” Royce said to Emery, sliding a hand into his pants pocket and retrieving a set of handcuffs. He hauled her back over to her stool and plopped her down on the seat. Before she even had time to react, he’d clicked a cuff around her ankle and its twin around the bar stool leg above the footrest bar so she couldn’t lift the stool and slide the cuff off.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” She cut him off when he opened his mouth to answer. “And what the hell are you doing here?”
“That’s a lot of ‘hell’s, sweetheart. I’m betting you have no idea what hell is. I’m Royce Devereaux. Emery’s known me as long as…” Royce’s gaze shuttered and he shrugged off the sudden heavy shadows of emotion. He was silent a moment before he noticed the kitchen and food on the counter.
“Breakfast for dinner? Wow, Emery must really want you in his bed. I’d sleep with anyone who cooks like he does.” Royce flashed her a cocky grin.
“Are you…” she paused, unsure of whether she grasped the dynamic between the two men.
“Into men? Nope. I’m only for the ladies. But Emery has serious kitchen skills. You’ll let him do anything to you once you’ve had a taste. I guarantee it.”
Emery spooned some scrambled eggs onto a plate then slid it across the counter to Sophie before speaking to Royce. “You know, you’re ruining my surprises. Now she’ll be demanding a taste every day, and I have to figure out what to make her do in return.”
“Well, I’ve got some new toys, if you’re interested…I bet she’d like some clamps, a bit of pain; maybe you’d like to borrow my cross? I’ve got a great new spreader bar for the legs.”
She didn’t know much of clamps, crosses and spreaders, but it sounded medieval. The handcuffs she could deal with. She even still wore the leather cuffs from the club around her wrists, but those felt more like a badge of ownership than a torture device. Sophie shuddered and jerked her ankle, trying to get free. The metal cuff on her ankle bit warningly into her skin and clanked sharply. Both men zeroed in on the sound instantly. She felt like a fox with her paw in a poacher’s metal trap.
Emery’s pupils dilated and he drew a slow breath between barely parted lips. “I love that sound.” His voice was whisky rough, and sent riotous shivers through her. He liked the sound of her struggling? Wetness pooled between her thighs and she clamped them together, mortified that the idea of her being helpless at his hands continued to do this to her, melt her inside completely until she could only think about him and his domination.
“I know,” Royce agreed, his voice just as low. “I love to hear a woman testing her restraints.”
Emery nodded. “The best ones are fighters. It takes someone aggressive to give them pleasure.” As he spoke, he abandoned the bacon and the pan to reach over the marble counter to her. His palm cupped her cheek, the pad of his thumb smoothing over her cheekbone, the touch affectionate, tender, but the fire in his eyes melted her insides. “Wouldn’t you like that?” he asked. “To wrestle on the bed before I finally pin you down and—”