His for a price(8)

By: Caitlin Crews

“If you were as smart as you pretend to be, you might realize that I don’t care what you want or what you think,” she’d told him while her heart had slowed then beat harder. Much harder. “Because I don’t. You should find someone who does. I’m sure there’s a website for compliant little girls looking for big, bad billionaires to obey. You could be playing lord and master of your own private castle in a week, tops.”

His lips had quirked, which on any other man might have meant laughter, but it was Nicodemus, with those stern, dark eyes that had drilled into her with all of his disturbingly fierce patience. It had disrupted her breathing.

“Marry me, Mattie. Don’t make this even worse on yourself than it already is.”

“Why?” she’d asked, almost helplessly.

“Because I want you,” he’d said, sounding very nearly grim, as if it was an imposition, that wanting. A trial for him. “And I always get what I want.”

“I’d rather swallow my own tongue,” she’d replied, a wave of a kind of despair swelling in her, because she knew better than to consider the things she wanted. What was the point, when she couldn’t have any of them? “I’d rather impale myself on a—”

“You’re a very foolish girl.” He’d shaken his head, muttering something dark in Greek. “But you’re mine.”

Then he’d jerked her toward him with one hand on her shoulder, knocked the cigarette from her fingers with the other and slammed his mouth to hers.

And all of that dark wonder had simply burst within her. Hunger and heat. That damned harsh mouth of his like a kind of miracle against hers. Claiming her. Branding her.

Shaking her to her core.

But she’d kissed him back, despite everything. She’d tasted him until she’d thought she really was as drunk as she sometimes acted. She’d fallen apart in his arms as if she’d been waiting her whole life for him to taste her. As if she’d always known it would be like that.

On some level, she had.

Fire. Panic. An instant and impossible addiction that had already gnawed at her, even while he’d still been taking his lazy, devastating fill of her mouth, as lethal and sure in the way he’d kissed her as in everything else.

“I told you,” he’d growled into her mouth when she’d been limp and useless against him. “You’re mine. You always have been. You always will be. How long do you plan to draw this out?”

Mattie had stared at him, unable to speak with all of those dark and wondrous things moving in her, and he’d smiled then, as close to tender as she’d ever seen him. It had transformed his dark face. It had made him something far more dangerous than simply gorgeous.

So she’d run in the opposite direction.

“Play your games, princess,” he’d said, harsh and amused as she’d fled from him. Certain, the way he always was. “When you come to me, I will make you crawl.”

She’d believed him.

“No,” he said, yanking her back into the dangerous here and now. His hand was on her arm, and that heat was stampeding through her and this time, there was no hope of escape. “We can’t all be me. But you can certainly learn how to please me, Mattie. And if I were you, I’d learn it fast.”

It was another threat. Or more of a promise, she supposed. Because despite everything, despite how long and how far she’d run from this man, he’d won. The way he’d always told her he would.

“I’ve never really been a quick learner,” she told him with a kind of manic cheerfulness, because she couldn’t let herself think about what pleasing him might entail. God help her, but she didn’t dare. “Oops. One more disappointment for you to swallow, I’m afraid.”



That was what mattered, Nicodemus told himself as he looked down into the lovely, rebellious face of this woman who had defied him and haunted him across the years, and somehow willed himself not to put her over his knee. Or under him right here on the library floor.

He took a breath, the way he would if this was as simple as the business deal he was pretending it was. Then another, and still she watched him like he was an animal, and she was half-afraid she might pick up a few fleas if she stood too close.

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