Okay, we’re coming down to the end, now. I finished the entire first draft late yesterday, but I need another day or so to make sure the ending is tight and HOT HOT HOT! So here’s a little bit more to tie you over until then…
Breathing as hard as the corset would allow, Rae ducked behind a giant oak in the backyard. She hadn’t been able to see him in the crowd, but she could feel him, as though a powerful tank rumbled straight toward her. She should have known a man like him would refuse to wait thirty minutes with her challenge dangling before him. She shivered and rubbed her arms. Night had fallen, turning the normally tranquil yard into a murky, chilled forest, complete with eerie fog settling in the low ground.
It might be her imagination, but the fog seemed to be pouring from a huge iron pot simmering away on a bonfire. What the hell did Miss Belle have in there? I probably don’t want to know.
Apparently nobody else wanted to know, neither. If any of the guests had been back here, they’d moved on, leaving her alone.
A loud crack made her jolt like a frightened deer. She pressed her back tighter against the tree until she felt the bark digging into her skin through the many layers of clothing. She strained her ears, holding her breath. Maybe it was Miss Belle coming to check on her concoction. Or a lost guest. It didn’t have to be—
Conn clamped a hand over her mouth and dragged her away from the tree, keeping her turned away from him. She couldn’t see him, but she knew it was him. Her body would know him anywhere, although his usual scent of leather books and musk was more raw than usual. This man wore leather.
“Did you think you could hide from me?” Even his voice was lower, rougher than the smooth Texas drawl so familiar and dear to her. “Or maybe you thought you could run.”
She tried to kick backwards, but her leg tangled in the heavy skirts. She threw back her elbow as hard as she could into his ribs, but he didn’t even grunt.
Roughly, he jerked her around. She swung her fist at his face. He didn’t duck or move aside, so she caught him on the jaw so hard that her entire hand ached, but he barely even turned his head with the blow.
His eyes roiled like steely thunderclouds on the horizon. The distinctive angles of his face were fierce, lined with canyons and dark with shadows. “Go ahead, Rae.” Despite the vibrating tension in his body, he spoke calmly as he wrapped his leather belt around her left wrist. “Hit me again. You know I’ll repay you in kind.”
She shuddered. She knew he would indeed, and her backside already braced for the stinging hot pain of his palm.
“No?” He said mockingly, arching a brow. She fisted her sore right hand but resisted the urge to slug him again. Giving her a knowing little wink, he looped the leather around her right wrist and bound her hands much tighter than he’d ever done before.
Her knees trembled and her brain felt as muddled as the thick wet air of the night. She’d always loved bondage, but this felt…real. The leather bit into her flesh. Arrogant and more than man enough to make her bend to his will—exactly the way she liked it—this Conn was harder than ever, wavering on the edge of violence.
He loosened the laces of her gown’s bodice and stripped it over her head, leaving her clad only in the thin, nearly sheer chemise and corset. The silk brocade had been ridiculously expensive, so she was glad it would be spared whatever he had planned. She felt exposed, though, worse than naked in these foreign clothes designed to give her no protection against a man intent on claiming her body.
Reverently, he draped the kirtle on a branch to keep it off the ground. “I thought I’d throw you over my shoulder so I could grope you all the way to the cottage, but I’ve changed my mind.”
He bent down, retrieved his sword, and unsheathed it. Her eyes flared wide and she stiffened with alarm. She’d never envisioned him using his sword in their play. The damned thing was way too real, very sharp, and so heavy she could barely pick it up.
Lunging, he planted the blade deep into the loose soil at the base of the tree.
She sucked in her breath as far as the stays would allow and raised her gaze to his. He smacked the leather sheath against his palm, and she felt all the blood drain of out her face and race south at full speed ahead. He’d never spanked her with anything else but his hand.
Wary, she took a step, hesitating like a rabbit frozen in approaching headlights. The last thing she wanted to do was give him her back. What chance did she have to escape with her wrists bound and lungs cramped by this stupid corset?
Absolutely none whatsoever.
“Come on, Rae. You ran from me for five long years so you’re good at this.” He flicked the sheath and leather bit her outer thigh hard enough that she yelped. “I said run!”
Fisting her bound hands in the billowing linen skirt, she whirled and ran for her life.