Undertow: A compilation of short beach stories, page 5
After pouring them both a full glass of wine, he lifted his in a toast. “To only truth. Deal?”
“Deal.” She clinked her glass against his.
He leaned back in his chair and fingered the stem of his wine glass. “Tell me, Ava. What kind of man do you want? Don’t tell me you don’t know. All women know. They just don’t pursue what they want.”
“No? What do they do then?”
“They settle. They compromise. Most women accept what they think they can have. They don’t reach out for what they really want. You, of all people, deserve more.”
Her lips parted in surprise. He’d run out of time to dance and flirt around the truth. He wanted her. He also suspected Ava might need something he could give her, something he hadn’t shared with anyone but a temporary, professional submissive in years. Time to see if he was right.
~ ~ ~
Ava swallowed, reminded of how many scraps she’d settled for in the past. Okay, maybe he did know women. Of course, look at him. He’d likely had many, many teachers. A parade of female instructors.
“Men are difficult to understand.” She dropped her eyes to her lap. “I can’t figure you guys out.”
“We’re simple. We tell you everything you need to know, up front.” He smiled and raised his hand. “Okay, I didn’t tell you I owned the resort. But I told you I wanted you, which I do. I’ve acted on that desire. So, ask me, what do you want to know about me or men in general?”
“Like you’d break the guy code.”
“I’m your slave. That means I have to answer truthfully. Hit me.”
She crossed her arms. “Why did Andrew dump me?”
“He was never that into you.” Wow, he’d answered quickly. “Obviously, he’s an asshole and you can do better.”
“Oh, he was into me alright.”
He leaned forward. “Let me tell you a secret. When a guy is into someone, nothing stands in his way. He doesn’t see obstacles. He ploughs straight ahead to you. Did Andrew?”
“Plough into me?” She thought back to the last time he kissed her. She’d gone back into the catering kitchen at some venue to tie up a few details. He was drunk. He kissed her and told her how beautiful she looked that night and could she come over? She did. After all, she’d spent all night dropping hints for such an invitation.
“You chased him, didn’t you?” Brett smiled at her.
She straightened her spine and felt her teeth clench. Damn. She had chased him.
“So, you’re going to tell me guys hate being chased?”
“We love it. But you won’t end up with him. Hold out for the guy who’d move this island to get to you.”
Her eyes stung from his words.
Brett tipped her chin up with his finger. “Any man who makes you feel unworthy and defeated doesn’t deserve to share the same air you breathe. You walk away the second a man looks through you.”
His face drew so close she was sure he’d kiss her. He didn’t.
“Ava Hollins, do you want to know what it’s like when a man wants you so badly he doesn’t dare let out a breath until you look at him?”
She nodded. She did want to know what it was like to be the center of a man’s universe. What woman didn’t? No matter how liberated, intelligent or independent someone could be, everyone ultimately wanted the same thing—to be cherished.
He dropped his hold on her face. “Go into the ladies room. It’s across the restaurant and to the left. Take off your panties. Bring them to me and place them in my lap.” He leaned back and picked up wine glass. “Now.”
Ava didn’t recall standing, walking or even entering the women’s bathroom. Only after she’d slipped off her sandals and she felt the cool tile under her bare feet did she grow aware of being in a ladies room. She shivered in the little private bathroom, yet another luxurious reminder of where she stood.
I’m in Bret Wright’s resort, with the man himself, and he wants my panties. How the hell did I get here?
She wiped her hands on an Egyptian cotton towel and took a deep breath of honeysuckle from the bougainvillea bouquet on her private vanity. Even though she was behind a slatted door and the ladies room was empty, her nerves jangled as if she stood in the White House being asked to cater a state dinner.
Well, she had invited sexual behavior with that short-unbuttoning move at the falls, right?
Bret’s words—or rather direction—rang in her head. She eased her lace thong from her hips, down her warmed thighs, to drop to her ankles. As she stepped out of them, she stared at the scrap of lace on the marble floor. I really am doing this. Before she changed her mind, she scooped them up and stuffed them into her tiny clutch purse. She always finished what she started. She’d definitely started this.
She felt herself flush as she walked back to their private dining alcove, as if the staff knew she was panty-less. Cooler air touched her warmest, now exposed, parts. She hoped she wasn’t walking into yet another mistake by getting sexual with someone in her business. This “someone” could end her entire career, present and future, with one phone call.
Even if she did turn him down, would he have taken revenge? Called everyone he knew in Washington and ensured she became unemployable? The thought seemed so uncharacteristic of the man he’d shown himself to be so far. In the last few minutes, she sensed Bret’s persona take shape. She sensed a kindness. Caring, but strong and commanding, he didn’t throw his weight around. Yet she couldn’t imagine anyone not trying to please him.
A category to himself.
She eased herself back into her chair, avoiding Bret’s eyes. She felt his gaze on her anyway.
“Well?” His gaze raked her from head to toe. Unbidden desire flooded every body part.
She pulled out her panties and set them in his lap.
After he tucked her thong into his inside jacket pocket, he picked up his wineglass. “I hope you like mahi-mahi. The chef says it’s particularly good tonight.”
“Yes.” That’s it? You have my underwear and now we’re talking about fish?
“Afterward we’ll go up to my suite, if you’d like. I have something to show you.”
Okay, no more food talk.
Despite being panty-less and her rising desire, she managed to eat dinner. He was right. The fish tasted heavenly. His dessert choice, a pastry in the shape of a clamshell with a chocolate mousse center, did a happy dance on her tongue. Even more delicious was his gaze repeatedly running from her breasts to her face. The sultry heat in his eyes kept her attention focused on the mounting yearning between her legs. She hoped she didn’t leave a wet stain on the chair cushion.
When their dinner was over and his hand touched the small of her back to urge her forward into the elevator, any remnants of their conversation or the meal vanished. She’d never been so hot for a man in her life, and yet he still hadn’t told her what he’d planned. She prayed it involved removing more of her clothes.
Bret pushed open the door to his suite, and Ava stepped into a magazine layout for a billionaire’s tropical getaway. Floor-to-ceiling water features stood tall on either side of the large entryway. Sheets of water cascaded down a flat rock surface into a pool of water where Koi fish lazily moved from one end to the other.
Bret’s hand urged her forward down the step into the main room, three times the size she expected. Tall, palm-like plants separated the large room into several, individual seating areas. Stacks of large picture books and conch shells graced glass tabletops. Every item looked placed deliberately—by a professional designer.
“You live here?” she asked.
“Sometimes.” He threw his lightweight jacket onto an overstuffed ivory chair and began to unbutton his shirt sleeves. “Make yourself at home.”
Albeit beautiful, she wasn’t sure she’d call this sterile place a home. Oh, but the view.
She dropped her purse into a chair and walked to the windows that made up the far wall. His suit
Bret’s warm hand on her shoulder jolted her back to the room. His breath touched her ear. “I want to make love to you. But you said no sex. . . .”
She spun to face him. The seduction in his whisper recaptured her attention. She abandoned the bewitching ocean vista for an even more enchanting view. She pressed her back against the cool glass. Bret’s intense eyes peered down on her face. His hands moved up her skirt and touched her bare behind. A chill ran from the top of her head to her toes. Her longing for the man, simmering since their earlier hike, erupted.
She grasped handfuls of his shirt. “I changed my mind.”
His lips pressed into hers, moving gently as if asking permission. He needn’t have bothered. Anything he asked of her she’d meet with a hell yes.
Her fingers moved to his shirt buttons. He released her mouth and grasped her wrists. “I want to see you in something other than that sinful little top you’re wearing.”
“What?” Please say naked.
“Rope. Ava, have you ever done any rope bondage?”
Her “hell yes” attitude met a wrecking ball. DEFCON ONE had returned. “Are you back on duty as a serial killer now?”
His lips quirked up. “Hardly.” A seriousness returned to his face as he cupped her cheek. “I promise to be gentle. Say . . . ‘love slave’ and I’ll stop everything.”
He backed away and picked up her purse. “Call your friends. Tell them you’re in Bret Wright’s suite. Tell them you’ll call them in two hours. If they don’t hear from you, they can break down the door.” One side of his lips quirked up.
She took her purse. “Okay, I will.” She needed privacy for this conversation. “Ladies room?” she asked. He pointed to a hallway.
Ava scooted down the corridor and slipped into a powder room larger than her kitchen back home.
Shel answered immediately. “Hey, girl. Scream. I’m at this throw-back, 1970s, disco hell.” A deafening ABBA song pierced Ava’s ear drum through the phone.
“He wants to sleep with me. Tell me what to do, Shel. I don’t know. I mean he’s—”
“Hotter than the love child of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?” Ava heard less music in the background. Shel must have vacated the dance floor. “Bret Wright is a gentleman—and a catch. I made some calls.”
“You did not.”
“I had to do something while Jared and Marguerite were getting busy. As far as I can tell, Bret’s one of the good ones and I’m an attorney. I never think anyone’s good.”
“He wants to tie me up.”
“And I’m your safe call?”
“Holy cow, Shel. How do you do that?”
“Oh, the shit I’ve seen. Where are you?”
“Nice.” Shel drew out the word as if impressed by his bondage location choice. “Tell him I specialize in personal injury. I can sue his butt if he leaves any permanent mark you don’t want. The question is, do you want?”
Did she? A small thrill about trying something new ran through her. But her logical self—the part of her that told her she didn’t know this guy—smacked her excitement to the back of the room. Famous or not, he presented an unknown.
Ava sighed. “I do, but, God it’s so . . .”
“Adventurous? Fun? Hot? Un-Ava-like? I’m not going to talk you into anything you don’t want. But, Ava Hollins, your staid, conservative, always-be-responsible persona is out of control. This trip has been good for you, and I think he’s the reason. Today, for the first time in years, I’ve seen you smile instead of grimace. If you trust this guy—”
“I should do it.”
“No shoulds, girl. You, of all people, are in desperate need of some wants.”
After she promised to call Shel back in two hours, Ava laid her phone on the marble vanity. Bret had challenged her comfort level all day. She liked how he pushed her to try new things. But, this? Bret pulled her further and further away from the life she’d known, like a riptide swept a swimmer further and further from the safety of shore. At what point would she move from having fun to being stupid? Think, Ava. Isn’t that she wanted during this vacation? To shift gears?
“So should you do this?” she asked herself in the mirror. Her desire answered. Hell, yes.
When she returned, Bret stood in front of the windows, hands casually stuffed in his pants pockets, peering down at the ocean. His stance reminded Ava of a European prince— the perfect blend of beauty and masculinity, polish and virility.
Ava cleared her throat. “Two hours,” she said when he turned to face her. Yes, most definitely a prince.
She shifted on her feet as his gaze washed over her entire body.
“Come closer, Ava. I don’t bite. Not unless you ask nicely.”
She laughed lightly and walked to him. But instead of the expected embrace, he spun her to face the glass. “Hands up and out on the window. Spread those spectacular legs. Wide, Ava.”
She did what he ordered. She leaned into the window, spread-eagled, as if being frisked. When his large hands settled on both of her shoulders, her back arched involuntarily. He tsked when her butt connected with his crotch. He drew closer anyway. She felt his appreciation through his caresses over her hips and behind.
“I couldn’t decide if your legs or your ass was more perfect.” One hand circled her neck and lifted her chin so she stared at her reflection in the glass. “I’ve decided both,” he said without a hint of irony.
He pulled her backward and upright, his strong chest pressing into her back. “Lift your arms.” After slipping her top over her head, he snapped open her bra and pulled down her skirt. Ava’s nude form stared back at her in the window. He pinned her arms to her sides in a bear hug, and dipped his head until his lips met her shoulder. She swayed backward. He remained steady, a solid support, his attention clearly focused on driving her mad with neck kisses.
As Bret leaned over and settled his chin on her shoulder, he stared at her face in the reflection. “For the record, I’d move this island for you.”
Ava didn’t know Bret well. She didn’t know men well. But somehow, she knew he’d told the truth. She felt a gravitational shift as if she’d moved from orbiting the planet to standing inside its dead center. Oh. So this is how famous people feel, she thought. Worshipped.
He abruptly dropped his hands and pulled her toward a tall cabinet on the far wall. After retrieving a small black bag from one of the drawers, he led her to the middle of the room. Bret dropped the bag to the ground. It opened, revealing at least a dozen small bundles of jute-like rope about a quarter inch wide.
Bret returned his attention to her, and trailed kisses up one arm and over her shoulder. Should she tell him he needn’t bother with any more seduction?
“I-I’m in,” she said. “You don’t need to convince me . . . .”
He chuckled darkly. His hands cupped her behind drawing her tightly against the thickest, most wonderful erection she’d ever encountered. Oh, yes, new category.
As his hands skimmed her body, her neediness reached an unprecedented level. She ground herself against him and earned a low, rumbling murmur from his chest. She hoped he could read the plea in her eyes. When would he drop those trousers? She had to feel his skin, and more . . .
His touches turned harder. He scratched his nails across her back and hips. Smack! Oh! An involuntary puff of air escaped her throat. She swayed and his hold tightened. He stared at the spot on her buttocks where he’d spanked her, his face a mask of concentration. Would he do it again? Yes, do it again. Instead, gripping her wrist with one hand, he pulled a small bundle of rope from his bag. He snapped it loose from its coils. The two ends unfurled with
He kept his eyes on her face as he looped two lengths of rope around her rib cage, one on the fleshy mound of her breasts, the other underneath. A gentle yank and the two pieces squeezed her breasts outward. The rough rope bit into her skin, and her breathing sped up.
“If you ever feel dizzy, tell me,” he said.
All she could do was nod. Her power of speech had fled.
“If it comes to it, I’ll cut the rope. Don’t forget ‘love slave.’ Do you understand?”
“Yes.” She barely breathed the word. She leaned into the full length of his body now pressed closer against her, as if he meant to keep her steady and present. Even with rope biting into her skin, she loved being this close to his body. And, what a body. Even clothed she could tell some serious muscle lived behind those pants and shirt.
More pulls around her ribcage shifted her focus. She dropped her chin, fascinated by the beautiful knot he’d formed on her sternum. The ends dangled, tickling her belly. He lifted her chin and looked deeply into her eyes. Keep your eyes on me, they transmitted.
His hands returned to their work. In seconds he had her wrists crossed and tied together with another short length of rope. He tugged her closer. She blinked but didn’t dare break his gaze. He sealed his lips to hers, and his tongue moved slowly while his capable hands explored her body, fingers slipping under the ropes as if checking the level of restriction.
He released her mouth. She felt more, gentle, scratching pulls on the rope. A downward glance revealed her chest and belly encased in an intricate diamond pattern make of jute. She inhaled deeply, testing the restriction of her rope top. Could she get out of it, if needed? She expanded her chest again. No, I can’t. Moisture gathered between her legs in response. She looked back up at his face, now tilted in question. Without him having to ask, she knew what he sought.