As the weight of his words settled over her, Raine felt his stare rake her, scorch her. She couldn’t stop trembling.
“Love?” A hint of coaxing warmed his voice as he hooked a finger under her chin and lifted it. She had no choice but to meet his gaze. “Are you afraid of me?”
Despite his size and strength, Liam was gentle at heart. Of course, he’d punished her before, but always in a way designed to make her think more than hurt. Right now, he was all big bad Dom. Though she’d never seen this side of him, he didn’t frighten her. In fact, as anxious as she was, his power was like a beacon. She was deeply drawn to it.
“No, Sir. Never.”
Her tummy knotted as she leaned forward and skimmed her palms along the rug until they stretched above her head. Ass lifting from her heels, she arched up in offering to him and rested her forehead on the carpet. Then Liam knelt beside her.
“Look at me.” His too-controlled tone sent a chill down her spine. She forced herself to comply, bracing for the worst. The heat of his body surrounded her. His warm breath fluttered over her ear. “I know you’re scared and worried about the ‘what ifs.’ But I’ve told you over and over that I expect you to share everything with me. You’re not doing that.”
Her heart wanted to. Her head hadn’t yet gotten the memo.
“Five days.” Her voice shook. “I’m late by five days.”
Liam sucked in a breath like she’d punched him with her words. Raine closed her eyes.
“I told you to look at me.”
She swallowed hard and did as he’d commanded, wishing he wouldn’t force her to see his disappointment.
“Are your cycles often irregular?”
“Not since I lived with my dad. I think stress caused it. I’m under a lot of pressure now.”
“Finally, some bloody honesty. Was it really so hard for you to tell me that?”
She bit her lip. “I didn’t know how to start the conversation. ‘Hi, honey. I’m worried I might be pregnant by your best friend.’”
“Take the test.”
“I’m scared the results will disappoint you. I hate that.” Tears flowed again. “So much.”
The silence dragged on. Pain and frustration filled his face. God, she just kept hurting him. Maybe it would be better if she left. She hated to stay where she only made matters worse, and the urge to escape now pressed down on her chest until she couldn’t breathe. But he and Hammer were both right; she always ran. She couldn’t honestly say that she’d done her part to hold the relationship together if she left now.
“Say something. Please…”
Liam sat back on the bed, his face closed. “Put yourself across my lap and spread your thighs for me. Show me your cunt. I want to see what’s mine.”
Raine rose from her knees and stepped closer, knowing any display of uncertainty would only make the punishment more painful—not physically. She wasn’t concerned about that. But mentally? Emotionally?
She tried to snare his gaze, but he looked right through her. Disquiet filled her all over again. Still, she dredged up the courage to sprawl across Liam’s lap.
“Tell me your safe word.”
“Paris,” she breathed.
Liam gave her a sharp nod. “Count until I stop.”
Raine drew in a rough breath, knowing he’d light into her ass at any moment. Instead, he made her wait. She twitched, wondering when he’d get on with it. The seconds dragged into minutes, which seemed like days. Still, he did nothing for a long, silent while but stare at her vulnerable bare backside. She resisted the urge to fidget.
Finally, he smacked her ass, his hand branding her with the feel of his palm and each finger. It burned into her like fiery, oozing lava. And it was oddly soothing.
“One.” She sobbed.
He kept going.
Today, he didn’t warm her up and he didn’t hold back. Each slap stung like a bitch. Pain sizzled over her skin, burned down into her flesh. He scorched her through and through. She focused on the sensations he gave her and welcomed them.
Slowly, with each rhythmic smack, the cacophony of thoughts all yelling through her brain quieted. Suddenly, there was a blessed peace, broken only by the whoosh of his hand, the slap and its echo reverberating through the room, the high-pitched sounds of her crying out the count, his heavy breathing…before the cycle started again. Somewhere along the way, she lost count and lost herself, fading out to a lovely place where she began to float away from all her problems. From everything but Liam, her anchor. Her love.
Raine didn’t know how much time had passed when the spanking abruptly stopped. Her muscles felt like melted chocolate, her thoughts like oozing honey. She breathed him in as he grazed his big palm over her hot flesh.
Long moments passed as she curled her arms around his leg, holding tight. “Thank you, Sir. I feel calmer.”
As he sat her up on his lap, Liam ran a soothing hand down her spine and cradled her to his chest. Her head lolled back, and she stared up at him, feeling her heart in her eyes. That didn’t scare the hell out of her as much as it used to.
“How do you do that?” Raine whispered. “How do you always know what I need?”
“I wish I did. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I’m here and I can bear the burden. Do you not realize how much I need to do that for you?”
“I promise, I’ll try harder.”
He sighed. “Stop telling me what you think I want to hear. Show me.”
Raine wanted to please him. “How?”
Liam didn’t answer her, just lifted her up and laid her out on the bed, bound her wrists in the cuffs attached to the frame, then grabbed her ankles and spread her legs wide. Despite all her angst, arousal bloomed. She ached for his attention, but stilled her writhing to please him. Raine knew she didn’t deserve to be rewarded, but she needed him desperately.
He tore free of his clothes, dropping them where he stood. She watched hungrily. The sight—strong jaw, broad chest, corrugated abdomen, muscled thighs, and a hard cock in between—made her yearn for him. His rigid flesh jerked in need as he crawled between her splayed thighs.
With a feral gleam in his eyes, he hovered over her and stroked his long, thick shaft. A mewl of impatience slipped from her lips.
“Is this what you want, Raine?” With his free hand, he dragged his finger through the folds of her moistening slit and teased her clit. “What you need?”
“Yes. Please, Liam.”
Instead of giving her more, he lifted his finger away. His expression blanked.
“Sir. Sorry. Yes, please, Sir.”
He didn’t give her what she wanted. “Do you like it when I share myself with you? Does it make you feel close to me?”
She nodded. “It does.”
“You like watching me stroke myself, don’t you, Raine? Does it make your cunt juicy with desire? Do you want my dominance? Ache for me to fuck you?”
She nodded feverishly. “Always.”
“Ah, love,” he murmured. “How do you want me? In your ass? Down your throat? Filling that tight pussy until you’re mindless with wanting to spill over me as you come?”
He circled her straining clit. She moaned in utter supplication, her stare riveted to his every move, silently begging for more.
“Any of it. All of it,” she cried.
“I can tell you want me.” His silky rasp reverberated in her ear. “I smell your arousal.”
“Liam…” she cried breathlessly.
Then his voice hardened to steel. “But I don’t think you understand, Raine. You will tell me what hurts you, keeps you awake, frightens or upsets you, makes you laugh and cheer and every fucking thing in between because you are mine. Until now, you’ve given me nothing except what I yank out of you under duress. Even then, you dance pretty around the periphery, clinging to me with your soft body and batting your lashes to distract me from your problems. I’ve given you a lot of slack in your rope. All you’ve managed to do is hang yourself.”
His words sliced her to the bone with guilt. From the time he’d approached her about becoming the best submissive she could be until this moment, he’d tried everything to reach her. Still, she remained half-frozen—in love with him but torn. Yearning to surrender everything but terrified.
“I know I need to do better.”
“You need to decide what you want.”
“You, Liam. Always you. Your touch. Your approval. Your understanding.”
“Then you have to do your part. I won’t tolerate just some of your effort or half of your soul anymore.”
He meant it. Raine saw the gravity on his stern face, in the hard glint of his eyes. If she wanted to keep him, she had to find the courage to surrender. She had to figure out how to give him the power to hurt her and trust that he wouldn’t.
“I know.” Raine teared up. “You’re so capable of making a woman feel special and showering her with devotion.” She didn’t see what she could possibly give him in return, and didn’t that sound pathetic? “I feel like I’m bringing you nothing but problems. Wouldn’t you rather just have my body?”
“I already have your body, sub, splayed out and wet just the way I want it.” Again he teased her cunt, sliding his thumb upward to rub her clit while inserting first one, then two fingers through her cream and deep inside her. “Making you beg and scream has been a heady pleasure from the start.”
Raine cried out and arched up for more, trying to drown the dread snaking through her with the euphoria of his touch.
He bent to her ear, his voice brutally gentle. “We don’t have a problem communicating when I’m fucking you into oblivion.” Then he withdrew his fingers, leaving her cold. “It’s here.” Liam tapped her forehead, right between the eyes. “This is where I lose you, where all our troubles lie.”
“You’re right. I know. I said I’d try harder.”
“But what you meant is that you’ll find more creative ways to hide from me. Close your mouth. Don’t deny it. If you lie, I’ll truly punish you and I’ll make sure you don’t like it.”