Alpha, p.9
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       Alpha, p.9

         Part #1 of Alpha series by Jasinda Wilder
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I took a long pull off my beer and then, in an instinctual gesture that surprised me as much as him, I think, I leaned my head back until it met his chest. I kept my eyes closed, per our agreement.

  “This is all so…much,” I heard myself admit. “So different. So strange. So scary. I don’t know what’s happening to me. You—you do something to me. Just by—I don’t even know—without trying. Like you know all my switches and buttons. But you couldn’t. You couldn’t possibly know what makes me tick this well. No amount of stalking, watching me from a distance, could tell you what turns me on. ”

  “Yes, you’re right. ” His voice, coming from so close, from his chest, from above my head…was loud, pure energy and vibration. “I told you, Kyrie. I can read you like a book. You’re scared, but you want this. You hate the fact that I affect you so much, but you like it in equal measure. The fear makes it that much more exciting. ”

  Glass touched wood, and then he took my bottle and set it down as well on the table behind us. His hands slid down my arms. His body towered behind me. His breath blew on my neck.

  “Eyes closed, Kyrie. ”

  “They are,” I told him.

  “Good. ” A brief pause. “Do you trust me?”

  “I’m trying. I’m getting there. ”

  “For all that I’m in control here, this still moves at your speed. I will push your boundaries, push you beyond what you think you’re comfortable with, but not so fast that your fears take over. ” Fingers, tangling in mine, big and hard and hot, twining with my own, small and trembling and cool. “Tell me what you want. Right now. One thing that you want to feel. ”

  There was no hesitation. “Another kiss. ”

  “Good girl. ”

  I hated that phrase, the way it was said, praising my response. “I’m not a f**king dog, so don’t ‘good girl’ me. ”

  He chuckled. “Touchy, touchy. ”

  “I’m not touchy. I just resent being spoken to as if I’m a poodle that finally managed to sit on command. ”

  Page 24

 

  I’d have thought, with this little exchange, that the mood for kissing would be gone. But no. Oh, no. My eyes still closed, I still felt his breath curl over my cheek, sandpaper skin sliding softly against my jaw, warm lips brushing mine. And, just that fast, my complaint was forgotten. I twisted in place, my feet remaining planted, my torso turning and leaning back. It was an offering, yet another way for me to show him that I was giving in to this.

  You know how I said I didn’t sleep around on the first date? Well, I rarely even kissed on the first date, either. I wasn’t a prude; I’d said this before. I just didn’t believe in diving headfirst into a physical relationship if there wasn’t some kind of emotional or personal connection in place. I didn’t expect forever love from a guy I was dating. I didn’t expect sweep-me-off-my-feet romance—although it was always nice—but I did expect him to put some kind of effort into getting to know me before he tried to get in my pants.

  So why the hell was I letting this man kiss me? Why was I asking him to kiss me? He’d admitted to having watched me for a long time. He knew things about me no one should know. That was still in the back of my head, that question, why did he watch over me? Could it really be called “stalking” if he never made contact? To me, a stalker was someone who watched your every move, sent you creepy letters and made heavy-breathing phone calls, who stood outside your bedroom window and watched you change, whacking off all the while. A stalker was someone with an obsession, an unhealthy, unsafe infatuation. Naïve it might be, but I didn’t believe that of my Mystery Man.

  Definitely naïve. I mean, look at where I was. I’d been collected. Collected. That still irked me.

  “You can’t ever shut off your brain, can you?” I felt his words on my lips, shaking me from my thoughts.

  “No, not really,” I said.

  “What were you thinking about?” he asked. “It must have been rather fascinating, if it was able to distract you from kissing me. ”

  “Sorry. I just…this whole situation is weirding me right the f**k out. I don’t kiss on the first date. I don’t obey. I can’t forget that you watched me, that you know every little thing about me. ” I moved out of his embrace, held out my hand, and wiggled my fingers until he put my beer into my hand. “You can read me. You’ve said it, and it’s true. That freaks me out, too. I’m just…I’m freaked out. I may not feel afraid, or in danger, but I can’t stop trying to figure this situation out. And yeah, I can’t really get into a make-out session when my brain is running a million miles a minute, trying to figure out what the f**k I’ve gotten myself into. ” I took a sip and sighed after swallowing. “And…why me?”

  I felt his presence recede a little, heard him take a swallow of his beer. I faced away and stared out the window. It was a constant effort to not turn around, yet for some reason, it was an effort I continued to make.

  “All that is understandable. ” He paused to drink. “Why you? Let’s just say for now that…I’ve got my reasons. I chose you because I want you. I know that doesn’t really help much, but it’s all I’m willing to say at the moment. So besides that, what could I do to alleviate some of your fears?”

  I tapped my fingernail against the bottle. “I don’t know. A name? A nickname? Something for me to call you? It doesn’t have to be your real name, just…something. ”

  “Hmmm. That is a reasonable request, I suppose. ” A deep breath. “You may call me…Roth. ”

  “Roth?”

  “Yes. Roth. It is…one of my names. ”

  “You have more than one?”

  He laughed. “Of course. Don’t you? Kyrie Abigail St. Claire. One could, conceivably, call you Abby, or Claire. In the same way, part of my name is Roth. It is a truth I’m giving you, and for a man as…reclusively private as I am, that is no small gift. ”

  When put that way…. “Thank you,” I said.

  “You are welcome. ” He was there behind me, close and hot and huge, once again. “Eyes closed. ”

  I did as I was bid. I closed my eyes, forced my breathing to stay even when my instinct was to hold it, bated and anxious, until I knew what he was going to do. Breathe in, breathe out. I was a ball of tension, shoulders bunched, fists clenched, one hand around my beer bottle, the other digging my nails into my palm.

  In an effort to prove something—whether to myself or to him I wasn’t sure, nor even what I was trying to prove— I tilted my head back and finished my beer in four long pulls. Of course, I then had to cover my mouth and let out a long, quiet belch.

  “Philistine,” he said, an amused lilt to his voice.

  I laughed. “Hey, I muffled it. ”

  “True enough. Now, are you finished?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Good. ” He took my bottle and set it down. His hands cupped my elbows, slid up to my shoulders. I shivered, and felt my tension ratchet up. “You’re tense again. Relax, Kyrie. I won’t hurt you. Surely you know at least this much by now. ”

  I tried to force myself to relax but that, of course, was a contradiction in terms. You couldn’t force yourself to relax.

  His thumbs circled into the muscles of my back, his fingers kneading my shoulders. That helped. And then I felt him sweep my hair off my neck, over one shoulder. My tongue flicked out and ran across my lips, anticipating his touch, his kiss. What I got was a cool breath blowing until I shivered, and then his lips met my pebbled flesh and the heat of his mouth washed over me. Every part of me loosened and contracted all at once, my tension receding even as eagerness had me expanding and straining.

  Another kiss, to the slope of my neck. His finger tugged aside the neck of my shirt, and his lips touched my shoulder. He moved closer, near my throat now. One hand held the thick sheaf of my hair aside, and the other carved down my arm, knuckles brushing the outside of my braless breast. The shivers were constant now, every touch causing my skin to tighten and my muscl
es to tremble. I tilted my head aside, and his lips stuttered over my neck to kiss my throat. I felt his hair brushing my chin, his bulk leaning over my shoulder. I reached up with one hand, drawing in a deep breath, nerves jangling as I dared to touch him back. My fingers slid along the back of his neck, across his hairline, and into his hair. I heard him growl deep in his chest, disapproval or pleasure, I couldn’t tell, but he didn’t stop me. I let my fingers curl into the soft thatch of closely trimmed hair, wondering at myself, at this situation, at this man, finding no answers and not even really caring. He kissed behind my ear, and his hands drifted down my front, skimming the cotton of my shirt in a not-quite touch.

  Page 25

 

  He grasped the lower hem, fists bunched at each of my thighs. I was frozen, not breathing…I was pretty sure even my blood had stopped pumping for a moment.

  “Such thin cotton…” he murmured, his voice rough with suggestion. “I could rip it apart so easily. Have you bared to me, just that easily. I could kiss you…everywhere. ”

  I put my hand on his, between his fists, keeping my shirt down. “Roth…don’t…. ”

  “No?” I felt his hands stretch apart, felt the cotton starting to give. “You’re still scared, Kyrie? Don’t you want to feel my lips on your skin? I know you do. You want it. You’re afraid to want it. You’re afraid to give in to me. But you want to, just as much. Have you ever really given yourself to a man before? I don’t think you have. And certainly never to a man like me. ”

  “A man…. ” I swallowed hard, fighting for words. He had my brain spiraling, my body shuddering, my blood thundering, my common sense eroding, and my senses humming. “A man like you?”

  “Yes, Kyrie. A man like me. ” Another tug of his fists, and I heard a distinct rip. “A man who knows exactly what he wants, and exactly how to get it. ”

  “And…and what do you want?” I was trying so hard to stay calm, and failing miserably.

  Rrrrrrip. I felt cool air on my navel.

  “To make you come” —rrrripppp— “harder than you ever have in your life. ”

  “Shit…. ”

  “To hear you scream. To feel you tremble under my hands. ” Rrrrrrrrrrrriiiip. The shirt was torn open to the space between my boobs. One more tug, and it would come free. “I’m going to make you come so hard you’ll cry. ”

  “Roth…. ” I wasn’t sure why I said his name. As a plea? Have mercy? Please, yes, I want that? No clue. Only that his name was all that came out.

  “Yes, Kyrie. You’ll be saying that, very loudly. You can scream as loud as you want, sweet thing. No one can hear you. ” His words should have terrified me, but they only made my thighs shake and my heart thud with anticipation. “Are you ready?”

  “No…. ”

  “Well, at least you’re honest about it. ” Rrrrriiippp. All that held the shirt on my body were the sleeves, and his presence behind me. “You can tell me to stop any time, Kyrie. I will. Immediately. ”

  Stop. The word wouldn’t come out. I’d stopped breathing again, and had to suck in a lungful of oxygen before I passed out. My hands were trembling at my sides, my eyes squeezed shut. I was still covered, though, the torn shirt resting on the very outer edges of my areolae.

  “A twitch of my hands, Kyrie. That’s all it will take. You’ll be bare to me. ” He ran his fingertip along my clavicle, toying with the ripped collar of the shirt. “Or…one word from your mouth. But you have to choose. Right now. Tell me to stop, right now. And do you know what will happen if you don’t?”

  “Wh—what?”

  “I’ll use the shirt as a blindfold, and I’ll lay you down right here, on the floor. I’ll make you come again and again. Until you can’t breathe and can’t move. Until you’re crazy with ecstasy. ”

  Fuck. I wanted that. Jesus, I did want that. “And—and you?”

  “What about me?” He sounded baffled.

  “What will you want…from me? In return?”

  “What will I want from you? Just your moans, Kyrie. Just the flush on your perfect skin. Nothing but that. ” That was too good to be true. That was a lesson I learned early on in life: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. He traced the hollow at the base of my throat with a finger. “Or, tell me to stop. I’ll leave you alone, and you can go to bed. We’ll resume this another night, but for tonight, you’d be…safe. ”

  Safe. Did I want that safety? Yes, and no. I didn’t doubt his ability to do exactly what he was promising, and I didn’t even want to think about how long it had been since I’d had an orgasm. But I also needed to know if he’d really stop when I asked him to. The trouble was, testing him would leave me aching and frustrated.

  It had to be done, though. I’d never be able to totally trust him unless I knew he was as good as his word.

  His hands were poised to brush my shirt away and, if that happened, I’d be lost to his touch.

  “Stop. ” I was proud of myself for getting that word out, for making it sound strong, sure, all the things I wasn’t feeling in that moment.

  His hands froze the very moment the word left my mouth. “As you wish. ” I felt him step away, and my entire body ached, screamed at me to beg him to come back, touch me, finish it, do as he’d promised he would.

  “It’s too much…too soon,” I explained.

  “Kyrie…darling, you don’t need to explain yourself. I understand completely. ”

  “You’re not…mad?” Why the f**k did I care? Why did that come out sounding so ingratiating, so weak, so small? Ugh.

  “No, of course not. Perhaps a bit…disappointed. Not in you, per se, but…simply left wanting. I don’t think you grasp the depth of my attraction to and desire for you. But you will. ” I smelled him, felt him close, his voice suddenly buzzing in my ear. “You will. You want this. You’re testing me, Kyrie. Don’t think I’ve missed that. So this is me earning your trust. Have I passed your test?”

  I squared my shoulders, breathed deeply. Nodded. “Yes, Roth. You have. Thank you. ”

  “Count to sixty, and then you may go. ”

  “Okay. ”

  “Goodnight, Kyrie…again. ”

  “Goodnight, Roth. ”

  I heard his footsteps recede, and I counted to sixty. I lost count, thinking about how he’d called me “darling. ” Eventually I assumed more than a minute had passed, so I went back to my room, clutching the edges of my shirt together. I sat on my bed, the shredded remains of my second-favorite sleep T-shirt on my lap. How easily he’d ripped it. I gripped the edges of the back of the shirt and pulled. I barely got the cloth to stretch. I had to exert all my strength to get the hem to tear; he’d done it as easily as ripping a sheet of paper. Yet for all his obvious strength, his touch had never been anything less than exquisitely gentle.

  He’d given me a name. He’d stopped when he obviously hadn’t wanted to. Part of me wanted to say that it was enough — I could trust him, I could let whatever was going to happen, happen. But another part of me held back. He’d outright told me he was keeping a secret that would change everything. For me, for him, and for us.

  Page 26

 

  How strange was it that there was already an “us. ”

  I put on a new shirt, lay down on the bed. Instead of trying to sleep, I let my mind wander, let it imagine what it would be like to just…let go. To give in totally to what he wanted. Something told me it would be pretty damned amazing.

  Just take it one day at a time. That was what I told myself. One day, one experience at a time.

  I was aching all over. Needing him to finish what he’d started, refusing to do so myself.

  Eventually, as the sliver of darkness between the drawn curtains began to turn gray, I fell asleep. I dreamed of big hands touching me softly. I dreamed of those hands tugging the blankets up closer to my chin, of a tall silhouette in the corner of my room.

  When I awoke to a gleam of lat
e morning sunlight, I swore I caught a whiff of his cologne in my room.

  5

  OPERA

  I was left to my own devices most of that next day. I found an astonishing assortment of my favorite yogurt stocked in the secondary kitchen refrigerator. I took that to the breakfast nook, which was kind of a mistake, since all I could think of was what had happened there hours earlier.

  I spent most of the day in the library, drifting from shelf to shelf, rolling the ladders around with my hand outstretched, pretending I was Belle, reading a bit of this, a bit of that, curling in the deep chairs like a cat. I mean, if you had a gargantuan library all to yourself, and that library had rolling ladders, wouldn’t you do the same? It was an irresistible temptation. I hadn’t had a day to do anything and nothing since being a teenager, and it was glorious. I might or might not have just sat on the couch in my room for something like two hours, basking in the sun, watching the city shift and move through the windows. I had a lazy lunch in the breakfast nook once again, and then set out to explore on my own. I had a pretty good idea of the layout of the place from Eliza’s tour, but it was a mammoth apartment, and I still had a tendency to get a little lost going from the library to the kitchen, and from the foyer to my room. After a couple circuits of the hallways, I knew my way around. I’d saved the little hallway leading to Roth’s rooms for last, and in the late afternoon I found myself standing outside that doorway, staring at it, wondering what was beyond it. What was he doing? Was he even here? Maybe he’d been whisked away in a helicopter to some business meeting across the city. Or maybe he was sitting at a mahogany battleship of a desk, scribbling with a fountain pen on fine white stationery. I didn’t see him doing anything so mundane as checking email or making phone calls, although I knew he must do those things. I was lost in those musings when the doorknob twisted, and the door began to slide open.

  Immediately, I spun in place, facing away. The speed and alacrity with which I’d turned away stunned me. I knew why I’d done it, though. I’d committed to the game, and I wanted him to reveal himself to me in his own time. Sneaking a glimpse felt like cheating. I was never the kind of kid to go looking for my birthday or Christmas presents. The largest part of the fun, for me, was the surprise, the not knowing what I’d find when I tore into the wrapping paper Christmas morning.

  “Kyrie. ” I heard the surprise in his voice. “What were you doing?”

  “Honestly, just wondering what you were doing in there. Wondering what your rooms look like. ” I heard a soft step behind me, the click of the door closing, and then his hand on my waist. “I wasn’t going to try to go in. I was just wandering around, and I ended up here. ”

  “You couldn’t get in if you tried, actually. The door has a lock coded to my thumbprint. ”

 
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