She hadn’t realized quite how much slapping him across the face was going to hurt her—her fingers began to throb then turn numb almost immediately. And damn him, he was even quick enough to block it, placing the palm of his big platter sized hand facing outward from his cheek so that she hadn’t even managed to slap the bastard properly, despite the satisfying sound that resulted from her efforts.
She was so enraged at his interference that, before she could even think about the consequences, she’d already hauled back to deliver another full forced blow that was, again, diverted, but this time nowhere near as placidly.
Instead, he caught her wrist before her hand made it anywhere near him and used his height as leverage, easily twisting it with his deliberately loose grip, forcing that arm up behind her back, almost but not quite to the point of pain. Not that she would have let him know he was hurting her, even if he was, but she knew he was very aware of his own strength at all times, especially when he was around women.
She was breathing heavily, having given those two attempts at hurting him nearly all she had and angry to the point of spitting—or worse, crying—but he stood there completely composed and serene, as if he couldn’t bother to feel threatened by her, which only made her just that much more determined to wipe that smirk off of his face, one way or the other.
She knew that, since she was so blasted short, bringing her knee up between her legs probably wouldn’t even reach his nuts, so she tried to haul her entire leg back, intending to kick her foot up and land her four inch spike heel where it was going to do the most damage—in pain as well as humiliation—but she had forgotten what her self-defense instructor had told her was her weakest tendency and, in drawing her leg back as far as his hold on her would allow, it had broadcast her intention to him as surely as if she had tattooed it on her forehead.
And Enzo Matroni wasn’t one to ignore an opportunity—especially not one that would impress upon her just how much better he was at pretty much anything, including getting just what he wanted.
And what he wanted at that moment was made very blatantly clear in one simple, devastating movement. Instead of letting go of her and stepping away, perhaps even bending down a little and covering himself for protection, he did the exact opposite of what she expected, extending his own foot forward and placing a broad thigh between hers, forcing them to open for him, knocking her slightly off balance and prompting a startled “oh” from her when she was forced to settle her crotch on top of his thigh in order to maintain her balance. His well-placed hand on the curve of her waist kept her from falling and removed her ability to put the foot she’d raised down or keep the other one on the ground to steady herself.
So, there she was sitting astride his leg, her feet dangling uselessly, both hands now trapped behind her as he contracted his arms just slightly, just enough to pull her against him, flattening her—full breasts to taut belly—against his expensive silk shirt.
When he spoke, she could hear his words—full of faux regret, every one of them—rumble in his chest even though he spoke quite softly, feeling his warm breath disturbing the fine curls around her ear. “I told you what I’d do if you encroached on my territory the last time you tried to do it, didn’t I, Allegra?”
She frowned, refusing at first to deal with the heart of his question. No one called her that. That had been the name her parents had used only when she was in trouble, but then he knew that.
Bastard, she thought, but she was wise enough not to say it aloud. She knew he’d use every weapon at his disposal, no matter how dirty, in pursuit of his own goals. Enzo had always favored a “take no prisoners” approach to their business, and she knew that he wouldn’t temper that with her, and her pride would never allow her to ask him to.
She’d known when she’d allowed exactly what he was accusing her of—on the advice of her lieutenant, who was quite sure that Enzo’s attention was elsewhere, like on a possible RICO charge that might result in jail time—that it could result in her standing right here where she was, although she hadn’t counting on him being quite so physical with her, despite his vow. But, come to think of it, she should have remembered the position he’d put her in when he’d made that little threatening promise of his, years ago.
* * *
She’d been summoned to his office in much the same way, if she remembered correctly. She’d come up in the world since then—this time, she had been brought to him in his limo. The first time, it had been styled much more like a kidnapping that had been accomplished right under her guys’ noses, as if to point out to her just how weak her personal security was. She’d known even then, though, that the men he’d sent to “collect” her, as he’d put it, had been told to treat her with kid gloves. Even so, she’d been bound, gagged, blindfolded and put in the trunk of their car.
Ally remembered that he hadn’t been at all happy with that, and she knew by the look on his face as he’d removed the blindfold first, then went to work quickly and efficiently at her bonds, turning her loose in a matter of seconds. He ordered the men who had brought her there out of his office, and she wondered if either of them would survive the night. He looked positively murderous.
He still had her wrists in his big fingers, rubbing the circulation back into her hands, but unlike some men, he wasn’t apologizing profusely as he did so and she would have been surprised if he had. He wasn’t the type. He admitted an error and rectified the situation, but he didn’t agonize over it.
“Can I get you something? Tea—” He stopped himself. “No, that was your mama, wasn’t it—Earl Gray was her favorite?”
She couldn’t believe she was smiling at him, considering the situation, but thinking of her mother did that to her, just before the inevitable tears set in. But she couldn’t allow those to show and opened her mouth to reply but not before he began again.
“Coffee? Soda? I think I even have some champagne.” He was rummaging around in the small fridge he kept behind that enormous, deliberately imposing, desk.
“Nothing, thank you.”
He straightened and returned to stand in front of her, catching eyes that were still a bit misty from the memory of her mother. “Apparently, I wasn’t clear enough with those two that, although they weren’t to take no for an answer, you were to be treated with the utmost respect.”
Ally cleared her throat. “I’m fine. And my men and I got our licks in, so they’ll both be walking funny for a while.”
She’d thought he might crack a smile at that, but no such luck. He wasn’t anyone’s idea of an easygoing man and tended much more towards darkness than most people would be comfortable with. But he’d never intimidated Ally. She used to count it as a personal victory when she could get him to laugh, and now it seemed downright impossible.
“You do realize that the fact that I was able to get you here at all by force means that your security isn’t very secure?”
Ally nodded, crossing her arms over her chest and pursing her lips. She was well aware of the shortcomings in her organization. “I do. I’ll see to that when I return.”
“I could lend you some of my men, if you like.” He leaned back against his desk and she felt his gaze settle on her like a gloved hand.
“No, thank you,” she answered primly. Knowing the answer didn’t stop her from asking, “Is that why I’m here? Because my security precautions aren’t up to your standards?”
Enzo lowered his chin a bit to look at her from beneath hooded eyes. “You know perfectly well why you’re here, Ally.” He sounded like a father about to discipline his child for doing something the child knew full well was wrong.
“I’m sure I haven’t the slightest idea-umph!”
She’d found herself rather roughly hauled up against him, one strong, muscled arm across her back, preventing any kind of escape with minimal effort on his part. She was half standing, half lying against him, and the angle at which he held her brought her nose within inches of his.
His breath smelled of nothing stronger than coffee, but then she knew that about him. He rarely drank anything, never touched a recreational drug—and barely a medicinal one, either, being a disgustingly healthy specimen of a man. And, he ran one of the tightest, most stand up crews in the area, especially for what many would term a crime boss, and they would not be in the least wrong about the label. But his men were held to a higher standard than anyone else’s in the city—including hers. They were expected to do as they were told without question, to never sample the goods, be they drugs, prostitutes, booze, cigarettes or whatever other pies his talented fingers found themselves in—but most of all, to keep their mouths shut, whether they were in a precinct or a confessional.
In return, he paid three times better than anyone else in the business. Men—and some women—were lined up to work for him, despite what some considered to be unreasonable restrictions on their behavior.
But he held himself to the same standards, and, since he came up through the ranks at Ally’s father’s knee and in his incredibly successful organization, he could do the job of any one of his underlings, probably better. He knew all the ins and outs and all of the excuses, and he didn’t tolerate any, ever.
Ally wasn’t his underling. She shuddered at the thought. She’d had a crush on him since she could remember and had done her best to keep it to herself, mooning over him as a moody adolescent only when she was sure no one could see her do it and very carefully not revealing her feelings to anyone, even her best girlfriends. And now that she was, essentially, his equal—a mob boss in her own right, if not quite as illustrious as he was—she thought she had managed to extinguish that flame trying to beat him at his own game.
She had stepped on his toes by quietly expanding into the southwestern valley—just a couple of streets, mind you, nothing flashy, and a move that a lot of other dons would probably ignore. But even if it had only been a couple of houses in his territory, she knew he’d call her on it eventually, and probably sooner rather than later. Enzo knew everything that went on everywhere—in his own territory and probably everyone else’s, including hers, and he wasn’t one to ignore someone trespassing on what he considered to be his, even if it was by his mentor’s daughter.
“Tell me why you’re here, Allegra,” he whispered against her lips.
Ally tried to push away from him but wasn’t getting anywhere. Even arching away didn’t work. He merely raised his other hand to splay it between her shoulder blades, keeping her at the distance he preferred, which wasn’t much.
When she spoke, she couldn’t help but bump lips with him. “I may have…overreached a bit.”
One eyebrow rose. “A bit?” he asked, tightening his arms just slightly, making her feel just that much more helpless as a result.
Ally struggled against his hold carefully. She desperately wanted out of his arms. Apparently, she hadn’t done nearly as well as she’d thought in burying her attraction for him, and she quickly realized that he wasn’t the only enemy here—her own body was betraying her, softening against him, wanting to melt into him, to moan and writhe against him until he kissed her and more. Much, much more.
Trying not to inflame him—not that she thought she could, necessarily, but as a precaution—and definitely not add to her own bone deep response—her movements were subtle and slow and always met with just as careful, painless defeat, until she stopped trying to extricate herself entirely.
Frustrated in more ways than she wanted to consider, she turned the same smile on him that she used to use on her father when she wanted something she knew he was likely to say “no” to. “Oh, all right. More than a bit, but not much, really, in the grand scheme of things.” She snuck a peek up at him, not liking what she saw but also not backing down from his eyes. “Certainly not so much that you’d feel the pinch of it, what with the size of your outfit.”
That was a miscalculation that he jumped on, as she’d known he would from the moment the words were out of her mouth.
“The size of my organization has nothing to do with it, Ally, and you know that. The lines were drawn very carefully to avoid the ravages of a street to street war, and I can’t allow it to continue.”
Back then, she hadn’t been in the least above trading on their history together. “Oh, come on, Enzo. It’s such a tiny taste and I need more income if I’m going to be able to keep the family together.”
Ally wasn’t ready for his response—not in any way. Those lips that had been threatening finally made good on their promise and he was kissing her deeply, his closest hand sliding slowly up her back and neck to bury strong fingers in her short curls, cupping the back of her head and not allowing her to end the kiss. He was hungry—and so was she, although she kept as tight a rein on her desires as she could, considering that she’d been waiting since she was thirteen for him to do exactly this.
And suddenly, the thought hit her. He knew that. He’d known all along that she’d had a crush on him, and this was just Enzo, playing her weakness to his advantage, which was something he’d done countless times with ruthless expertise to many of his enemies. He found, then exploited their weakness—gambling, affairs, booze, whatever, and turned his knowledge of their transgressions into his own successes.
Her only weakness was him, and here he was, kissing her like she’d fantasized he would for all those years.
He was inches away from becoming her own personal transgression. As much as she ached for him—and every bit of her wanted nothing more than to surrender herself to him completely, with absolutely no reservations—she couldn’t imagine the damage she’d be doing to what she was struggling so hard to maintain—her father’s legacy and the integrity of the families he’d built, both personal and business. If she yielded herself to him in any way, all would be lost.
Including much of herself. He wasn’t the kind of a man who would accept halfway—he would have all of her or none of her, and if she succumbed even just the slightest bit, he would take everything she offered and demand even more of her. She knew somehow, instinctively, that she would be in real danger of losing her very soul to him if that happened.
In an unconscious self-defense move, Ally went cold in his arms, limp and unresponsive, as if a light had been turned off and a dark void was left in its absence.
* * *
Enzo couldn’t figure what he’d done wrong. She’d had a puppy dog crush on him since he could remember. There weren’t that many years between them—seven or so—but when he’d come into her world, she’d been on the cusp of adolescence and she’d fallen hard, staring at him with those big blue eyes as if he was a rock star or something. He was twenty and she was thirteen, and he’d walked a very thin line with her, being excruciatingly careful not to encourage her, but also not to hurt her, either. He wasn’t sure she realized the last part.
He’d watched her mature from the fringes of her life, knowing it would be better for the both of them if he didn’t allow himself to get too close to her. He had other goals to accomplish at the time, and that helped. Oh, her family had done its best to take him—the orphan—in and include him as one of their own, but it wasn’t the same, and he cultivated a certain distance that he knew would make things easier on everyone, including himself.
But she wasn’t a teenager anymore, and he wasn’t her father’s right hand man, either, always on the outside looking in. If anything, she was the outsider now, trying to hold the pieces of her father’s crew together after his unexpected death, and, although he knew just how tenuous her position was, he couldn’t afford to just let this thing go. It would send a bad precedent, and soon, every mob boss in the area would think it was perfectly fine to start encroaching on his territory. If that happened, before he knew it, he’d be a boss with no territory, no income and no crew.
As it stood, he was one of the richest, most powerful men in his business, and he liked it that way. In fact, he had plans for down the road, moves of his own he intended to make to expand and grow his business until it was insulated enough that a takedown of any kind—federal or rival—would be almost impossible. One of those plans was, eventually, to absorb her little engine. He had to hand it to her—she was a woman in a business that was ninety-nine percent male, and she’d done an amazing job of not allowing what her father had built to die on the vine after him, to be picked apart by vultures—and he didn’t count himself out of that characterization in the least. In fact, since he’d worked for Don Cerone for so long, he would have the inside track on the best—most profitable—way to absorb it into his own business.
Despite how well she’d done keeping her family together, the other bosses didn’t take her seriously, and her bottom line suffered because of it. She had to fight constant raids into her territory by other bosses who saw her—rightfully so, in some ways—as weak while trying to grow and expand her business in a town that had long since been divvied up in an effort to maintain peace.
There was nowhere for her to go—and that was exactly what had her standing her in front of him now.
His own plans for expansion were on the back burner at the moment, and he needed to put the kibosh to this right now, before it became something bigger that forced him to do something he really didn’t want to do—yet, anyway.
And although it might not have been what his business management professor would have suggested, or even what her father and his old boss would recommend, the feel of her in his arms—unwilling as she was and cold as she was trying to be—had him thinking that he was going to apply a rather unconventional solution to this situation.
He was itching to simply flip her over his knee, which would have been so easy considering the fact that she’d gone so limp in his arms. He could do anything he wanted to with her now. It would be a mere flick of his wrist, and then he would have been able to see what she had on beneath that tantalizingly modest just below the knee skirt she was wearing. He bet it was pink, lacy panties—and his imagination ran away with him, picturing a matching garter belt and stockings—until he ruthlessly reeled it in.
He didn’t need to go down that road right now, even if he did decide to give her the spanking she so richly deserved. He wasn’t doing this to get into her pants—however much he might want to use it as a handy excuse to exorcise that particular demon from his past.
This was business, despite the fact that he was going to say something to her that he’d never consider saying to any other boss. He was going to keep his pants on while he did it, and hopefully hers, too, instead of doing what he wanted to do, which was to clear off his desk in a one-armed sweep and bend her over it—one way or the other—or one way and then the other.
He steeled himself against his own worse tendencies and reached up to cup her cheek in his hand, making sure her eyes were on him before he began. “Allegra Marie Olivia Cerone, I am only going to have this conversation with you once.”
She had been giving him that bored adolescent look he’d so despised when she was an adolescent. He was even less enamored of it now that she was—supposedly—an adult, in a very adult occupation.
But the no-nonsense tone of his voice—its deep, lethal softness—wiped that look off her face in record time. She shuddered—once, just once—before she caught and subdued the telltale reaction. Then, when she looked up at him again, he knew that he had her full attention.
Enzo reached out to take the tip of her chin in his fingers, using his other arm to tuck her against him. “I want you to understand that no amount of encroachment into my territory is acceptable, at any time, for any reason. You do not get a free pass because of who you are. As a matter of fact, because of who you are, if I ever find out that your men have so much as set a big toe into any area in which I transact business, I will exact a payment from you that you will probably consider even dearer than you do money at this time.”
She looked confused, as if she thought she’d missed something.
Enzo leaned forward, putting his lips almost onto her tiny ear and whispering, “I will call you on the carpet again, and, in that instance, I’m afraid that a warning—like you’re getting this time—will not suffice. Instead, I will do something I’ve often thought your father should have done for you frequently while you were growing up. I will take you over my knee and paddle your bare behind until your backside is cherry red all the way down to the backs of your knees.” He heard her outraged indrawn breath but easily stilled her attempts to break his hold on her by holding her just that much tighter without having moved in any other way, “And I promise you that, when you then vow to me—and you will eagerly do so to end the spanking, believe me—you will barely be able to summon the breath you need to reassure me that we will never, ever have to have this conversation again.”
He leaned back enough to be able to look into her eyes. Her mouth was hanging open just a bit until she realized that it was and snapped it shut. Her cheeks were blushing almost as brightly as her butt was going to if she defied him.
“Nod your head so that I know you understood what I just said to you.”
* * *
Unable to think of doing anything else, Ally automatically bobbed her head. Her mind was in such a jumble—his nearness was bad enough, but for him to say those things to her, putting imagines into her mind that made her blush all the brighter because they were far from new to her. Nowadays, they were tucked well back in her brain, only dragged out when she was feeling lonely and horny and she did her level best to keep herself busy enough that it didn’t happen very often anymore.
But it used to, when she was a lady of leisure, a pampered and indulged daughter of the most powerful don in the city.
Son of a bitch. She wanted to stomp her foot—bringing her four-inch heel down on his instep came to mind—but she knew that would just get her into more trouble and she certainly didn’t want to provoke him into spanking her here and now. The threat he had just made was mortifying enough. She’d never expected that kind of thing from him. She’d thought he’d give her a good talking to, perhaps even take out a man or two to show her what he was capable of—not that she didn’t already know.
Had he really just kissed her breathless, then had the audacity to threaten to spank her if she disobeyed him?
And now, more years later than she’d like to count, having gotten a bit complacent and glossed blithely over that conversation in her mind, letting Frank’s surprising insistence about what an opportunity this would be for them convince her of something that she knew to be patently untrue. Enzo never missed a trick. Ever. She’d been able to convince herself, somehow, through the blessing—or curse—of time that he hadn’t really been serious, when, if she’d thought about what she knew of him at all, she would have known that he never said anything he didn’t mean. So, here she was, and she knew exactly what she had coming to her. She knew he was seconds away from tipping her over. Balanced, as she was, on his muscular leg, it would be depressingly easy for him to manipulate her so that it was her stomach in contact with his leg rather than her lady bits.
And she really had no one to blame but herself. It might have been Frank’s idea, but she was the boss, and it was her decision. She should be the one to bear the consequences, and it looked like that was going to manifest itself quite literally.
When it happened, it was as if it was in slow motion, no matter his ease in accomplishing it. Ally’s mind simply couldn’t begin to process the fact that he was actually doing it. There was a chair right directly behind him that she hadn’t noticed because his presence blocked it, but in one fluid motion, he both tipped her over and sat down, so that she ended up over both of his legs. Before she got a chance to gather her wits, she felt an uncommon breeze on the backs of her thighs that quickly extended up and over her bottom. The cause of the draft was the fact that he had swept the pretty floral skirt she’d thrown on this morning up around her waist, then hooked a finger under the waistband of her tights and peeled those down to the tops of her calves, expertly catching her boy briefs on the way down so that she was left naked to his gaze—and his hand, which came to rest possessively over the rounded flesh he’d just uncovered.
Ally wasn’t the type to take such things lying down—so to speak—warning or no warning. And her efforts were very nearly rewarded the first time she tried to get up, rearing back and surprising him, which was darned near unheard of. Enzo had a reputation for preparing for any eventuality, but he hadn’t anticipated just how hard this little wildcat fought the application of a sentence he considered completely just and that she had been amply warned about.
She almost made it off his lap and had her foot raised to take her first step towards freedom when he hauled her back down and lit up her fanny with ten fiercely hard swats. “Just so you know, princess, this doesn’t even count towards the spanking you earned.” She hated it when he called her that, as if he was dismissing her as some vapid, spoiled kid. “They’re for trying to escape your punishment, pure and simple. I suggest you lie still and take what’s coming to you, or it’s going to end up being much worse than it might be.”
“Fuck you! Let me go!” She struggled and twisted and turned until one forearm came to rest across her back, and with almost no effort on his part, she found herself almost completely unable to move, which only made her that much angrier and determined to escape. She exhausted herself trying to do so while he waited patiently for her to surrender.
When she finally hung—spent—over his lap, panting and growling, another ten or so fiery smacks landed on her upturned cheeks. “Again, not a part of your original punishment, but added because of your poor attitude and foul language. I know your parents didn’t raise you to say things like that, and I don’t want to hear them, either. And you definitely shouldn’t be saying them when your backside is right there for me to remind you to be more conservative in your speech.”
Ally frowned deeply, but considering how much her behind was already stinging, she didn’t say anything. But she did reach around behind her to give him the one finger salute.
She knew it wasn’t a smart thing to do and she got exactly what she thought she was going to get, but she kept her finger right there while he proceeded to methodically seer every inch of her he could reach, finally tipping her a bit forward so that she had no choice but to put her hands on the ground to steady herself, thus relieving her of the ability to continue to flip him off.
* * *
Stubborn wench! She was already quite well tended to, and he hadn’t even begun the punishment she’d been brought here for! A part of Enzo wanted to put that session off, but he knew he couldn’t. He had told her he would spank her if she disobeyed him and he always followed through on everything he promised, discipline especially. The extra swats she’d accumulated were entirely her own fault, and he wasn’t going to extend any sympathy to anyone who acted like a spoiled brat when she clearly knew the consequences.
So, he steeled himself and began again in earnest, letting her distressed cries and the abject tears that inevitably followed fall ineffectually around him as his hand marched relentlessly up and down skin that, by the time he was through, was a much deeper, even more painful looking red than the cherry he’d told her she could expect.
Eventually, he began to stop occasionally to ask her if she wanted to promise him that it would never, ever happen again, but she was at least as stubborn as she was intriguing, and he could feel her clenching her teeth so that his inquiry was met with a stubborn silence—if one frequently interrupted by gulping and sobbing and hiccupping.
Towards the end, she wasn’t even protesting much, just moaning and weeping piteously each time his hand made contact with her roasted backside.
Until, finally, she flung a hand up onto her behind—displaying all five fingers instead of just one this time—careless that she might end up on her head from lack of support, barely breathing, “Stop, please. Stop.”
Enzo halted, but he kept his spanking hand over the crest of her feverish cheeks, asking in a deliberately scolding tone, “Is there something you want to say to me, Allegra?”
Want was not exactly how she’d describe it. She had reached a point where she felt she had to give in or face being completely broken by him. She opened her mouth to utter the necessary depressing, degrading promise, but the words wouldn’t come out. Tears dripped with each blink onto the concrete floor beneath her, and she could barely catch her breath for sobbing—as he’d predicted—but they still wouldn’t come out.
Enzo did his best to provide some encouragement, applying hard, stinging swats very slowly over areas that had already been thoroughly covered.
After about ten more swats, it rushed out of her on a sobbing cry at what passed for full volume at that point, “I promise! I promise!”
He again stopped immediately. “You promise what, Ally?”
She was Ally, now that she’d acquiesced to him, she noticed, anger trying to seep back in, although it was quickly overwhelmed and squelched by the pain. “No one will set foot on your territory again. No one. I promise. Zero tolerance policy.” She slumped over him as if every bit of her strength had deserted her and breathed, in barely a sigh, “Zero. Tolerance. Policy.”
He almost patted the small of her back. “Excellent.”
How she found herself, minutes later, in the back of his limo instead of hers, she couldn’t quite say. Those moments after she’d surrendered to him were just that much of a blur, but someone had rearranged her clothes—sans the tights, and now she was kind of draped over him diagonally on her side on his lap. He was holding her close and whispering soothing nothings, occasionally kissing the top of her head, rubbing her back a bit absently. She could feel his phone vibrating in his pants pocket, but he hadn’t so much as reached for it to shut it off. He just ignored it in favor of soothing her.
Ally heard him lower the glass between himself and his driver. “Take us to the cabin, Maury, please.”
“Sure thing, boss.”
Ally tried to stir but he wouldn’t allow it—not by anything overt, not saying anything preventative, but by merely contracting his arms and pressing her against the solid—somehow annoyingly comforting—wall of himself.
“But I have meetings I need to attend—things to do.” Her words were uttered against the rich cashmere of his coat and muffled into unintelligible murmurings.
Enzo had a good idea what she was saying, though—probably not a lot different from what he would have said if their positions were reversed—he had a business to run and things to do.
But he couldn’t stand the idea of having just spanked her as severely as he’d ever spanked anyone in his life and just letting her go on about her business. He wanted…well, if it came down to it, he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted from her, or he wasn’t much interested in examining what that might be, but he knew he wanted to spend more time with her than just long enough to blister her behind. And what he wanted, he got, one way or the other.
Too exhausted to argue, she fell into some kind of twilight sleep, almost, where she could hear what was going on around her but couldn’t quite bring herself to do anything about it. She knew she should have stood up to him more about the spanking, definitely, and now about whatever it was that he was doing with her, but she felt more exhausted than she’d ever felt in her life, as if all the stress of the past nine or so years—with her father dying and trying to pass the business on to her, and then trying to keep it going while she learned the ropes without him—had coalesced into a pure, bone tiredness that she wasn’t sure she was ever going to be able to recover from.
She felt the car stop and heard Maury open the door for them, but it was Enzo who lifted her in his arms and carried her through the door of his cabin. That term had always been used very loosely. It was a property that her family had owned when she was very young—before Enzo had become a part of their lives. When they had owned it, it had been a pretty bare bones cabin—a summer retreat on a small, private lake where there were very few other family camps. They’d made a few changes—adding indoor plumbing, for one, since her mother had refused to use an outhouse after the first time she discovered she was sharing it with a raccoon. But they hadn’t done much else, because, at that time in their lives, they didn’t have the money, and by the time they did, they weren’t spending much time there, so it wouldn’t have been worth the investment.
Her father had given him the property when he had made Enzo his second in command, and the young man had spent nearly all of his leisure time fixing it up. He’d turned it from a three-season camp to an actual home, moving in there, rather than retaining the tiny, sparse apartment he’d had forever because the rent was cheap, and he spent most of his time at the Cerones, anyway. He’d been in construction before he’d worked for the don, so he could do all of the work himself and enjoyed it as a way of relaxing. He raised the roof and added four bedrooms upstairs, expanding what had laughingly been called the kitchen, which had consisted of a sink, a trailer sized fridge and a Coleman stove when Ally’s family had owned it, into one that any chef would be envious of. He’d also built out the bottom floor until the place was a veritable showroom, with a wraparound deck that extended down to an elaborate dock, extensive landscaping and even a mock widow’s walk cupola on the roof. He had taken what had been a dilapidated old garage that had become her father’s tool shed and made it into a small guest cottage not far from the main house.
Ally hadn’t been there in years—not since he’d finished the job entirely and had thrown a bit of a housewarming party for his friends. And right now, she wasn’t in any kind of condition to admire what he’d done with the place. All she wanted was a cold shower—for various reasons—and her own bed.
“Do you need to use the phone?” Enzo asked politely.
Ally frowned. She had a cell. Why would she need his phone?
She asked him that very question, and that chin hit his chest again. She was beginning not to like that look on him at all. “So you can speak to whoever it is you need to, to make sure that everyone on your end knows that our little agreement is to be strictly adhered to.”
“Oh. Yes.” She blushed—which seemed to be becoming a habit around him—that she hadn’t thought to do that herself. “May I use your office?” It would afford her at least some privacy from prying ears. She wasn’t any too interested in him hearing her eat crow when she spoke to her lieutenant.
“Be my guest.” He opened the door and flicked on the light, then closed it politely behind her, saying, “Be sure to let Frankie know that you won’t be available this evening. You’re going to be in a meeting with me.”
Ally wanted to argue with him about his high handedness, but Frank had already picked up and she was thrown off balance by his demand, curious enough about it to tell her right hand man exactly what he’d wanted her to. When she came out, something luscious smelling assailed her nose. It smelled a lot like her mother’s spaghetti sauce recipe and launched her back to childhood, when her mother would spend all day with a pot of it simmering on the back burner for dinner that evening, although everyone agreed it was always better the next day. It was pretty stupendous the first day, too.
She noticed that he had set two napkins, silverware and wine glasses at the snack bar on the other side of the huge kitchen island, in front of two beautiful mahogany counter height chairs. He dished out what he probably considered to be a moderate amount of pasta, then applied a generous ladle of gravy that was full of what she knew would be both sweet and hot Italian sausages, pepperoni, and hamburger, along with tons of onion, garlic and peppers.
A basket of garlic bread appeared as if by magic, fresh shaved Parmesan cheese, as well as a bowl of baby carrots cooked with garlic and ginger that he knew were her favorites.
“Wow, thank you for putting all of this together.” Ally wasn’t at all sure she could eat anything, but it all looked scrumptious.
She watched him surreptitiously as he moved about the kitchen with complete confidence, just like he moved through the rest of his life. He didn’t look like the typical Italian man—in fact, he was pretty much the complete opposite, with a relatively fair complexion that she remembered tanned beautifully in the summer and bright, piercing blue eyes. He was tall and bulkily muscular, although not muscle bound, with broad shoulders and a slim waist, and a butt to die for. She knew—and blushed at the remembrance—that he had very little body hair, especially in comparison to the rest of the men she knew, and only a sprinkling of darker blond hair on his chest.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, holding both plates in the air as if he expected she was going to tell him she had become allergic to spaghetti, as most of the few women he’d dated lately seemed to be because it was high in carbs.
“No, sorry. When I get tired, I stare…” her voice trailed off, “inappropriately.” It was barely a whisper, but she knew he’d caught it.
He put the plates down, saying, “Have a seat. Eat, eat. You’re too thin, by far.”
Her doctor wouldn’t have agreed with him, but Ally knew that Enzo wouldn’t care in the least what the medical community thought she should weigh.
Ally stared at the chair he was pulling back for her as if it was going to bite her—and it probably was. “Uh, no, thank you. I prefer to stand.”
She wanted to try to slap him again—maybe this time she’d catch him off guard and actually succeed—for his knowing grin, but he disappeared too quickly for her to do that, returning with a big decorative pillow that he applied to the unforgiving hardwood seat, then offered her his hand to guide her to the seat.
How could she refuse such a gallant offer, despite the fact that she knew she ought to? She put her hand in his and let him seat her. Surprisingly, as soon as she sat down and her backside objected a lot less than she had anticipated that it would, she found her appetite and ate everything he’d given her, even the generous bowl of baby carrots, which she hadn’t had in years.
Finally sated, she leaned back in her chair and sighed, crumpling the fine white linen napkin onto the counter. “My word, I haven’t had a meal like that in ages. I ate way too much!”
“Nah. Like I said, you need some meat on your bones if you’re going to take me on.”
The blush was back, of course. It always surfaced at the most inconvenient of times—like when her dirty little mind turned everything into a double entendre. “You do Mom proud, Enzo.”
It was his turn to blush, to her amazement. She didn’t think she could recall a time she’d ever seen him do that.
“Thank you,” he said, catching her eye. “That means a lot to me. Your mom was as close to a mother as I could ever hope to get in this world. She was a special lady.”
Her eyes filling with tears that she didn’t want him to see, Ally reached for her wine glass, which was nearly empty. “That, she was.”
He refilled hers and his, then raised his towards her. “To your mom. I’m sure she’s got Heaven shipshape several times over by now.”
No matter how hard she fought against it, two tears escaped down her cheeks, even though he’d made her laugh. “Heck yes, and now she’s down with Daddy, running him and the Devil ragged.”
When Enzo saw her tears, he set his own glass down, took hers away, and reached out to cup her cheek, wiping away a tear with the side of his thumb. “Ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry.”
His voice was so soft that, to her horror, she began to cry even harder. It seemed the more she tried to stop it, the worse it got, until he enveloped her in his arms and cradled her against him. He didn’t try to cop a feel; he didn’t try to kiss her. He just held her and rocked the slightest bit back and forth. “You were very lucky to have two such wonderful parents.”
“I know. I’m sorry you didn’t.” She knew she should have been pulling away from him, out of his much too close embrace, but it was just too damned wonderful to be held like this, in strong, sure arms—in his strong, sure arms! She was liking it much too much, and Ally was wary of getting used to it. What had happened between them in the past few hours, was an aberration, and she couldn’t afford to rekindle the crush she’d barely succeeded in tamping down the first time. That was rapidly becoming impossible to do within the confines of his embrace.
“Oh, but I did. Your dad practically adopted me without knowing me from Adam, really, and you all took me in and treated me like a part of the family, even though I didn’t appreciate what you were offering like I should have, at the time. You were very generous to share your parents with me—the interloper—like you did.”
“Well.” Ally smiled unrepentantly. “As long as I continued to get everything I ever wanted, why not?”
Enzo laughed and squeezed her a bit harder, one hand roaming down to cup her bottom. “I know. You were terribly spoiled—cars, and horses and more horses. As I said before, your father should have been putting you over his knee at least once a week, as far as I could tell, and considering what a tight ship he ran, I’m surprised he let you get away with everything you did.”
Ally tried to pull away from him, experimentally, and found she simply couldn’t unless he allowed it. “I didn’t get away with that much!”
“Like hell! You should have been paddled every night for a week and had your car taken away from you for six months for driving home from Cassie Beauchamp’s sweet sixteen party drunk—and high.”
She’d been taking a sip of her wine and nearly choked on it at that last bit. Her parents hadn’t noticed either the smell or her bloodshot eyes from the pot she and everyone else at the party had been smoking. They were more concerned with the alcohol on her breath and the fact that she parked on the lawn rather than in the driveway and bobbed and weaved her way to the house.
Leave it to Enzo not to have missed a trick, although she couldn’t even remember seeing him there at the time.
“Did they give you any consequences for that at all?” Enzo asked incredulously.
“They took away my keys for a week,” she crowed almost proudly, then added sotto voce, “But I got them back in three days because I had to work.”
One expressive eyebrow rose. “Case in point. Then there was the shoplifting incident.”
“I didn’t shoplift!” she informed him heatedly, feeling almost like she was fifteen or so and trying to convince her parents of her innocence. “It was Mary Southgate and Theresa Palumbo! They took cigarettes. I didn’t steal so much as a bottle of nail polish.”
“They were both bad influences, and if I recall correctly, all of this happened while you were out past your curfew,” he supplied smoothly.
She was always out past her curfew, because the bastard was right; her parents never enforced any of the rules they set down for her, and she knew it. But Ally was amazed that he remembered so much detail about her, and she said as much.
He blushed again, as if he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, himself, saying, “You were all your father could talk about most of the time. It’s a wonder he ever got any business done.” That was true, but she had always been a point of interest to him. She was such an untouchable, unfathomable entity—having grown up on the right side of the tracks—that, at first, he’d been surprised to find that he actually liked her. She was indulged to the extreme, but somehow had missed becoming a nasty person because of it, and she was an inveterate animal lover, especially her damned horses. Despite the grief she caused her parents occasionally, although none of her antics were hurtful or violent, she obviously loved her parents and that earned her a lot of points in his book, spoiled or not.
Besides, although he knew better than most that she was out of his league and distinctly off limits, he basked in the adoration for him that he could see she was doing her best to hide from him—and everyone else—and failing completely. But he’d never teased her about it or rubbed her nose in it. Until she grew up and came back from college, he’d felt more like a protective older brother to her than a potential suitor.
And by the time she’d come home with her degree, he was in the middle of the schism with her father when he left to begin his own operation, and he didn’t see much of her.
Although he did still keep as close tabs on her as he could, especially when he finally got a good look at how she’d grown up from across the room of a chamber of commerce event that they had both attended. She looked amazing, and he had immediately become more thoroughly jealous of every man who approached her than he had a right to be. Not that that stopped him.
But he didn’t act on his feelings. She was making her own move to take over her father’s concerns, and, if she succeeded—and that looked quite likely—they would become rivals.
So as much as he didn’t want to, he’d distanced himself from her, reduced to gazing longingly at her when he got the very occasional opportunity, and then only when he knew no one was looking, of course.
“Oh,” Ally replied, somewhat deflated. She’d thought, in a brief moment of weakness, that he might confess that he’d had a crush on her, too, but that was entirely too much to hope for.
He could see that she was let down and couldn’t bear to see that look on her face. So, he caught her eye and then rather boldly bent down to kiss her, taking her lips as if he had every right, as if it was something he had come to expect, something he did every day because it was his right.
Ally knew she should have been protesting—loudly—but was surprised to realize that the impulse just wasn’t there. What was there was the sharp need to kiss him back, to try to assuage the insistent throb between her legs. She wanted nothing more at that moment than to press her body against his, to feel his plains and angles against her softness. Her nipples blossomed as he deepened the kiss, his tongue delving past her lips, the fingers of one big hand in her hair and a thick arm around her waist, lifting her even closer to him, pressing her against the unmistakable evidence of his desire for her.
That hard length pressing into her tummy was like a jolt that made a beeline for that hidden area between her legs that had been weeping for him since she’d laid eyes on him, making her wetter than she had already gotten from that horrible spanking he’d dealt her. She didn’t know why, because they certainly hurt like a mother while they were happening, but in the aftermath of the occasional spankings she’d been given by eager—if novice-boyfriends—they had her practically ripping their clothes off so that she could mount them where they sat.
Of course, she knew she couldn’t do that to him and, besides, the spankings she’d had before didn’t compare to what he’d just done to her. The previous ones were given by men who just wanted to get into her pants, not by someone who was so obviously quite expert at it. The thought of how he might have acquired all of that experience didn’t set well with her at all, so she pushed it to the back of her mind.
That spanking of his was the worst she’d ever received, leaving her so sore she didn’t want to move a muscle, and so horny she had to clench her fists against the impulse to grab his hand and place it on her crotch. She’d very nearly thrown herself at him in the back of his limo. Only the surprising depth of her exhaustion had saved her from that ignominious end.
Not long into the kiss, Ally gave up all pretense of trying to remain unmoved and neutral. She just couldn’t do it—her body wouldn’t let her. It was most definitely in league with him, innately recognizing and responding to his very natural dominance.
But just as she was beginning to kiss him back, he took a step away from her and took her hand, leading her to a little alcove off the living room that faced the lake, which was dimly lit by the occasional scattered camp along its shores.
“It’s off season,” he whispered. “Those are security lights, not house lights. And the marina’s too far away. No one can see us.”
It was a gorgeous, almost secret place with a floor to ceiling bow window where every other square of what should have been glass was actually a mirror, so when his hand reached up to begin to march down the line of tiny pearl buttons on her blouse, she could watch him do it. The image of those strong brown fingers manipulating those delicate nibs had her thinking of what they would look like if it wasn’t buttons he was playing with, and she found herself so entranced by both the images in the mirrors and the ones in her head that blended so well with them that she couldn’t look away.
She was so far gone that she barely noticed that her blouse was hanging completely open until she felt cool air on breasts he’d just released from captivity, then surprisingly gentle, callused fingertips on her collarbone.
His eyes were on her, watching his own hands as they explored the creamy skin he’d uncovered. “You were always so beautiful, Ally,” he whispered absently, almost as if she wasn’t there.
She could feel herself suffuse with the heat of a tremendous blush, and knowing the truth of it as she stood here in front of the one man in the world she wanted most but couldn’t have, she was even harder on herself than usual. She had no delusions about her own looks. She wasn’t a troll, but she was no Angelina Jolie, either. She was, at best, pleasant looking, with her naturally curly chestnut hair being her best feature. She took after her Irish mother in complexion, her skin a delicate pale that required vats of sunscreen in the summer if she was going to be out in the sun. Her eyes were green but her brows and lashes leaned towards sandy, so she had both tinted. But that was about as far as she was willing to go in regards to changing herself. She flatly refused to have the plastic surgery that would have straightened the nose that had been broken when she failed to catch a football the neighbor boy had thrown to her during her tomboy phase. There would be no Botox or collagen or chin implants—something she had been very surprised to hear that her male counterparts were all doing for themselves. Her makeup was conservative and businesslike, just like her taste in clothes.
But then, she wasn’t a model, and her chosen profession could be quite chauvinistic, still, in many ways. She had found that it was best if she was always professional and above board, completely business like, so that no one got any ideas that she was after anything else. And she thought her slightly off kilter nose gave her a badge of honor, of sorts, that many of the other bosses had, although no doubt they had earned theirs in an entirely different way than she had.
Enzo—her greatest rival—had somehow managed, by the deceptively simple act of spanking her, to cause all of the feelings she had so carefully tucked away to bubble to the surface, and now he was all she could think about, especially with his fingers touching her with such reverence and yet avoiding all of the spots that cried out for his attention.
They roamed her shoulders and down the outsides of her arms, tickled the middle of her palms, then glided upwards, along the ultra-sensitive insides of her arms and across the very top of her back, feathering along her neck and landing, somehow, on her lips just before he claimed them again, crushing her against him and holding her there, her spiked nipples buried in, then rubbed tantalizingly against the expensive silk of his shirt as the ache surged powerfully in each of them and their hunger pushed them past the point of reservation.
He took an incongruous step back from her and Ally nearly fell over as she felt the keen loss of his lips and the gorgeous lines of his body against hers. She was naked to the waist, and he held her eyes with his as he reached out to tuck his fingers into the waistband of her skirt, turning it expertly around to the back so that he could dispense with its button and zipper.
He already knew what was beneath them, and for a long moment, he indulged himself, looking at her but also at her reflection in the window, remembering how often he had thought about having her in exactly this position, only to ruthlessly dismiss the image from his mind. She wasn’t for the likes of him.
Yet here she was, pink tipped breasts rising with each ragged breath, curls falling almost but not quite onto slender shoulders, a bottom lip that was swollen from his own attentions, still slightly moist from his tongue.
The only physical secrets she still had from him were covered by his least favorite kind of women’s underwear, which he dispensed with in seconds, pulling the waistband out and ripping the material away from her body with his bare hands.
She was exquisitely nude, but obviously self-conscious about it, her creamy skin suffusing a delicious shade of pink all over. He refused to resist the impulse to walk around behind her, gently patting a bottom that still looked atrociously sore, and she confirmed that thought by trying to arch away from his hand.
That same hand splayed itself between her hips, fingertips millimeters away from very intimate territory, holding her in position for his other hand to apply five crisp smacks to those lusciously rounded cheeks.
He was of a mind to rub the sting away, but instead, remained behind her and pulled her back against him, her bottom settling just below the rampant evidence of his desire. “Don’t pull away from my touch, Ally.” Scolding and serious but not sharp.
She didn’t think her nipples could get any harder, despite the fact that he’d renewed the atrocious sting in her behind that had just barely begun to calm, or probably because of that. He was behaving like a textbook Dom—like all of the ones she’d read about when she was lonely and alone and wanting him and terrified to admit it, knowing she could never, ever have him. Ally could feel the flood gushing between her legs, but she was torn. This was wrong! She shouldn’t become involved with him this way. It would just complicate everything about her life—and his!
But she wanted it. She wanted him. More than enough to throw caution to the wind. Just this once. Just to see what it would be like to have him. To let him have her. To surrender to him the way she’d always wanted to with the other men she’d allowed to discipline her, although something always held her back from doing so.
And he was that something. She didn’t want to experience that kind of submission with anyone but him. She’d known instinctively that, with anyone but him, it would be a thoroughly disappointing experience.
But he was as different from those wannabe Doms as pizza was to a wedding cake. Enzo hadn’t asked for permission to punish her. It would never occur to him to ask. He’d just done it, because it was what he’d seen fit to do.
And, as much as she rarely admitted it to herself, and never, ever to him, he had been exactly right when he’d supposed that it was just what she’d needed. He was just what she needed.
Enzo stood behind her now, watching them and her alternately, as his hands slowly, excruciatingly slowly, made their way up from her hips, over a quivering tummy, his fingers discerning her ribs and almost tickling her, then, finally, settling where she’d wanted them to be all this time—cupping her breasts firmly, not tentative in the least, rubbing the sides of his thumbs over their smooth sides, then around to the top and down just slightly, but still not taking what was right there, what was straining and plumping and aching for him.
His first touch of her nipples was depressingly underwhelming as he pressed his palms over them, massaging slowly.
Ally did give in to a childish impulse and stomped her foot this time, only to hear him chuckle at her.
“Someone is impatient. Luckily,” he whispered against the tender back of her neck, “someone’s not in charge. I am.”
He dragged his fingers over them and then his palms, but avoided them completely at times until Ally reached behind her and took his cock in her hand and felt quite satisfied as he jumped against her fingers and groaned.
“I thought that might get your attention,” she purred in a self-satisfied tone, stroking him slowly.
She did not expect the crisp swat that had her yelping and abandoning her pursuit in favor of trying to cover herself. “Put your hands by your sides, Allegra,” he growled into her ear, then nipped it somewhat less than playfully.
She did as she was told grudgingly, still hoping that she had made her point.
But instead, he took her hand, and after kissing the back of it, he began to lead her in the direction of what she knew was the only bedroom on this floor.
It was enormous but sparsely furnished in various shades of gray, cream and maroon. Once inside, he closed the door, then turned to her with a very determined look in his eye, enough so that she began to take a step back for every one he took forward until the backs of her calves met with the edge of the bed.
But he didn’t stop coming towards her, bearing her down onto the bed with a thigh between her legs, keeping them separated when she would have preferred to close them against him to maintain some sort of defense against being totally vulnerable with him. But trying to didn’t make it happen. He wasn’t taking the hint. In fact, he’d moved them up the bed to the pillows, all the while keeping her open to him until his head could take the place of his leg.
That had Ally in a full-blown panic, reaching down and trying to urge him away—which was like trying to move a brick wall—but also trying to twist herself out from under him, neither of which worked, and the only thing she succeeded in doing was getting herself close to being in trouble yet again.
He had batted at her hands to discourage her from trying to dissuade him, smacking the backs of them, but then he just rolled her over a bit and swatted her backside instead.
“You are not to interfere with me when we’re in bed, Ally.” He said it as if he expected that this was only the first time of many! “Unlike your parents, I think you have a good idea that I won’t hesitate to dole out unpleasant consequences if you displease me with your behavior.”
She froze in place immediately from the heady combination of the threat of another spanking and his deep voiced scolding, not to mention the fact that he sounded as if he thought this was going to be the first time of many. She wanted to continue to wrestle and eventually get away from him, but she knew those for the pipe dreams they were. He was much too big and determined, and she had a feeling he’d never let her go.
And, she quickly realized that wasn’t necessarily such a bad feeling—especially when she let him roll her back over and found his lips inches from the spot she so desperately wanted them to claim, having to fight the desperate urge to offer herself up to him lewdly.
But before he did that, while she was splayed open, a leg trapped over each of his shoulders, he reached up and began to play with her nipples. She sighed in unselfconscious bliss as he pulled and pinched each of them, to the perfect point just shy of pain, then backing off and becoming gentler, but only for a very short time, repeating the cycle every few minutes.
She was so wrapped up in what he was conjuring within her with those masterful fingers that the feeling of his mouth closing over her already engorged clit caused her to start violently. His hands immediately came down to hold her thighs in place as he began to mouth her eagerly.
Despite the ample evidence that he did not consider that doing this to her was a hardship in any way—unlike most of the men she’d dated—Ally began to concentrate single-mindedly on the pursuit of her orgasm, finding it amazingly close. And having had the unfortunate experience that most men would stop doing what he was so generously and so exquisitely just shy of having brought her off, she tended to try to come as quickly as she could.
But he backed off as soon as she began to moan more frequently and, instead, introduced two crossed fingers within her, making her keen with the pleasurable yet challenging effort of accommodating them. It had been a while. It had been a long while.
Enzo watched her more carefully than he’d ever watched anyone he’d taken to his bed, and he did his best with every woman to be a considerate lover, but this was Ally, and he wanted to make sure that every second of it was amazing. She had sounded a little distressed when he’d pressed his fingers into her and considered removing them, but then she hadn’t asked him to stop and her breathing had become even more ragged as he’d begun to pump them in and out of her, fiercely, from the start.
As he fucked her hard with his fingers, he watched her face avidly, and the tension in it concerned him. “Ally, you have to tell me if you don’t like something I’m doing to you or if I’m hurting you—and I don’t know it. I won’t necessarily stop, but I definitely want to know.”
That garnered another long, low groan. “Enzo—uhhhhh—oh—dear—God!”
The unfettered ecstasy in her voice had him swelling nearly to the point of bursting. Making her cry out like that with pleasure was practically enough to set him off with her having barely touched him. He felt as if he’d hung the moon to get that kind of response from her, and yet he’d barely begun to make love to her.
She was panting and straining, though, as if she was trying to grab the brass ring already. “Not so fast,” he cautioned, withdrawing his fingers over her very vocal protests and, ignoring eager hands that were trying to keep him there, crawling up her, dragging himself over her until he caught himself at her cleft and sank into her, holding her legs spread wide over his arms and pumping smoothly, powerfully, in and out from the start.
Suddenly, he realized why she was so eager so quickly and settled himself fully atop her, his face buried less in the pillow and more in those wonderful curls of hers. It nearly killed him to do it, but he stopped thrusting into her and simply lay quiet, nibbling her earlobe. “I want to taste every inch of you, you know. And eventually, I will. And I want you to taste every inch of me—some inches more than others.”
He felt her smile.
Then he framed her face with his arms and looked down at her—her face was flushed and she, too, was still panting. “I want you to indulge yourself with me. There’s no clock in my head timing how long it takes for you to find your pleasure. I would suckle at your clit for days on end, spend weeks just playing with your breasts or kissing you—and someday, I intend to actually attempt all of those records and more. Not that there won’t be ample times when I’ll take you the moment we’re in the door—or maybe even before, in the back of the limo, the backyard, or wherever the mood strikes me—hard and fast and urgent.” He’d begun moving again and the feelings that inspired silenced him as he slipped his hand down between them to press two fingers between swollen lips to simply lie against a clit made just that much more sensitive and vulnerable because of his imposing presence within her.
Ally was practically beside herself, completely overwhelmed by him and all of the sensations he was flooding her body with. She was seconds from rapture, yet seemed miles away at the same time because his movements were nothing but unbearably slow and deliberate. Nothing she did seemed to encourage him to hurry things up, either, and she thought she was going to die from the raw wanting.
She was so unbearably frustrated that her hands came up without her even realizing it and began to beat an impatient rhythm on his shoulders until he captured one on either side of her head, pinning them to the mattress and continuing that slow deliberate torture—sliding all the way in until she knew she could take no more and resting there for one or two beats, then removing his presence from her entirely, leaving her feeling almost bereft of him until he finally began the oddly gentle assault again, those fingers not moving in any way on their own but merely in tantalizing coordination with his cock.
She could feel the edges of her world beginning to thrum, to vibrate in that special way, but she’d never experienced it so fully before and the sheer intensity of it made her almost afraid of her own orgasm for the first time in her life.
Enzo was doing his best to concentrate on her, but while he was doing so, he was startled to realize that he was almost there, himself. But then he saw—really saw—the edges of fear creeping into her eyes. He didn’t abandon his hold on her hands but stayed them in another manner, putting his own arms across hers so that she was just as trapped, but giving himself the ability to cup her face and kiss her, tenderly, reassuringly, at first, but then much less so as he could see that the fear had receded and he could no longer resist the dictates of his own flesh and quickened his pace.
He had wanted to watch her at the moment of her greatest pleasure, but he didn’t have the mental capacity to do it; he was too lost in his own paradise, mindless with the need to fuck her. Not that he didn’t feel her come around him—she bucked and writhed and arched up to him, granting him even deeper access to her body, which he immediately took advantage of with no compunction at all, her spasms prompting his, making him throw back his head and growl as he pumped himself into her.
Enzo’s face landed on the pillow next to her, and that was where it was going to stay for at least a moment or two, maybe longer. He wasn’t at all sure he could have moved, even if Maury burst in the door to say that a turf war had broken out on his front lawn. He couldn’t think, either, knowing he should have been doing something for her or to her, something that would help her know things she probably didn’t want to know from him. Things he wasn’t at all sure she should know. He wasn’t much of a fan of making himself vulnerable, and she was still a rival. For now.
Eventually, he rolled to one side, keeping an arm over her until he’d settled himself on his side next to her and recovered a bit. Then the hand that had claimed her tummy moved down to the part of her he’d just claimed in the most elemental of ways. His middle finger had just begun to slip between her lips when her much smaller fingers wrapped around his wrist, doing their level best to stop him.
He stopped, because he was curious about just how far she’d go with this but didn’t point out the fact that he knew she was already well aware of—that she couldn’t stop him. She didn’t have the strength, or she would certainly have put an end to the spanking she’d received earlier.
He didn’t say anything but simply caught her eye and raised his eyebrows.
She scowled fiercely, and he thought she was going to earn herself another trip over his knee.
“One.” It was a simple word, but he knew at her indignant gasp that she had caught on to what he was doing.
Less than a minute later came the deadly neutral, “Two.”
Her grip tightened, and he thought the stubborn little minx was going to let him get to three, but then it relaxed and she removed her hand, seconds before the point of no return.
As soon as she’d released him, his finger attained its intended goal, resting atop her still enormously swollen clit and rubbing very lightly.
Ally wanted to snatch his hand away from her more than she wanted to do anything else in the world, but she also knew that she didn’t want another spanking.
She couldn’t take another one, considering the condition her poor rump was already in. She had no choice but to lie there and let him molest her as he watched her reactions intently, so much so that she had to close her eyes against him in the only act of defiance he would allow, it seemed.
He patiently and determinedly brought her to three more orgasms, something none of her other lovers had ever bothered to even try to do, and frankly, she had never bothered to ask. Most of them had just rolled over and gone to sleep once they’d gotten what they wanted.
At her last huge culmination, one that had her feeling dizzy and lightheaded, he pulled her back against him to spoon, with his heavy hand around her waist and his semi-hardness nestled against the small of her back.
“Sleep, beautiful. More to come—so to speak—in the morning, after we’ve both had a good rest.”
Despite how exhausted she felt, Ally’s mind had begun racing as it did sometimes after sex. Enzo was already breathing slowly and steadily behind her, but she was trying to think of how all of this worked out, and she couldn’t see anything anywhere near resembling a happy ending between the two of them. It just wasn’t done.
So, instead of falling asleep as she knew he expected she would, she kept all of her senses revved and bided her time until he rolled away from her in his sleep. She didn’t leave, even then, though, because she knew he’d be in a lighter sleep for a few moments. She gave him fifteen minutes or so before she slipped out of his comfortable bed and away from his warm embrace to dress hurriedly, and pantiless—she’d left the wreck he’d made of them right where they’d landed when he’d thrown them away—walked to his nearest neighbor, whom she knew always kept a small skiff with an equally small outboard motor available at their private dock until it was nearly winter.
The Wellingtons wouldn’t mind if she borrowed it, she knew, especially since she’d done it often enough while she was growing up and they’d never been the wiser—and they’d been in residence, then, too, whereas the house was dark now—not shuttered yet, because there still might be some nice weekend days when they’d come out to camp, but definitely not occupied.
Even so, out of habit, she rowed away from shore onto the darkened lake so as not to tip him off more than anyone else, only starting the motor when she was well out into the lake, then making a beeline for the lights of Mendleson’s Marina, which she knew would be open for at least another month or two for those who preferred to vacation at a time when they could avoid the crowds of tourists, and also for the convenience of those who, like Enzo, lived there year ’round.
Tanya Mendleson D’Agostino was one of her best friends—they had gone to school together—and she happened to be manning the convenience store her family owned and ran that was right off the dock. Ally didn’t get to see nearly enough of her, so she stopped in on her way, both to chat with her and to ask her to make sure that the Wellington’s skiff got back to them, if she would.
Bless her heart, although she gave her friend a curious look, she didn’t pepper her with all of the questions Ally knew she was dying to ask—like why she was here so close to closing time, why had she “borrowed” the skiff of a next door neighbor she no longer had, why, why, why.
As she was about to leave, Tanya asked, “Hey, when can we get together for a girls’ night? Maybe some poker or we could go in to town to see those male strippers who are coming here next month?” Tanya shook and ground her hips in a hilarious imitation of any of the male leads from Magic Mike.
Smiling broadly for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, Ally said impulsively, “It’s a date. I’ll get us tickets—can you see who from the old gang might want to go with us and text me with the number?”
They said their goodbyes as she slipped into the limo, having called her driver as soon as she’d docked.
* * *
Her second in command, Frank Antonelli, was proving a bit harder to deal with, questioning her more closely than she thought he had a right to about where she had been all night when she got in touch with him the next morning, and she didn’t hesitate to call him on it.
He looked dumbfounded and almost angry at the rebuke but didn’t mention the situation again, which was all she required. She’d chosen Frank from a bevy of candidates for the position because he was a bit older, reminding her somewhat of her father, and he tended to be very level headed and calm and had a lot of experience in the business that some might say caused her to lean on him a bit too much. But his reaction to her being incommunicado last night, even though it wasn’t something she’d done since she’d taken command of the family, she didn’t think, was way out of hand, almost smacking of something like jealousy, an idea that Ally found preposterous, dismissing it and the incident from her mind in favor of diving into the work that was in front of her.
* * *
He had to give it to her; this time, she was as good as her word. He got word the next day that the two guys who had thought they could set up shop in his territory had been taken care of in a permanent fashion, and he appreciated her promptness in handling that. He’d increased his presence where they had poached to make sure that no one else tried to follow in their unfortunate footsteps.
He also hadn’t heard a word from Allegra. Not a word since that night.
She was gone when he awoke and had been for quite some time, judging from the coolness of her side of the bed. How had she left without him knowing? He’d called Maury, ready to chew him out for taking her home, but he told him that he’d been home in bed the entire time, and Enzo was inclined to believe him. None of his cars or boats or jet skis were missing—besides, he would have heard her start any of those. She’d managed to make her escape in what seemed like total silence.
It was a mystery and that kind of thing didn’t set well with him, especially considering the intelligence he was hearing from his guys on the streets about problems at the highest level of her organization that put her in danger. The first thing he’d done when he discovered she’d fled, just to reassure himself that she was all right, was call the man he’d tapped to tail her and to whom he had given the night off because she’d be with him. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. But even if he hadn’t been hearing alarming things that made him fear for her health, Enzo liked to know how things worked, especially when someone had gotten the best of him. He’d envisioned a long, languorous lovemaking session and the lack of it had left him surly to the point of violence.
And beyond that, he wanted to talk to her—needed to talk to her. What had happened between them was so hot and unexpected that he wanted to clarify where they stood with each other. Relationships such as he intended they would have didn’t flourish if there wasn’t clear communication between both participants. And, most of all, he didn’t want to fuck this up.
Not only was he pondering the how, but also, why she had left him. He’d thought the evening had gone really well—most especially the last bit. Even weeks later, just beginning to think about the time they had spent together—even the tamer parts—got him hard as a rock.
If he’d had all the time in the world, he would have tailed her, himself, and kidnapped her back to the cabin, only this time, he’d make damned sure she didn’t get away. As it was, pressing issues had kept him much too busy to indulge such an impulse, unfortunately, but he did add another man to watch out for her, as discreetly as possible, of course. But she was never far from his mind and he let her know that in subtle and not so subtle ways.
And he was smart about it—he didn’t send her a Rolls Royce or a diamond bracelet—she would have rejected both of them outright as being much too extravagant. Some of them were a little over the top, but most of them were blatant attempts to take care of her in small ways, which scored big points in her book.
He sent a huge bouquet of lavender roses to her office the next day, and then, about once a week, sometimes more often, he sent her something else to remind her that he was still out there, that he still wanted her, and that he wouldn’t wait forever for her to come to him—as unromantic as it sounded, he’d said as much as that in the note he’d included with a very sexy set of matching bra and panties he would love to see her in They consisted of a pair of antique white lacy cheeky panties, and he salivated every time he thought of her in them, along with a demi bra of the same color as well as a few touches of black lace around the edges. She was well endowed enough that she didn’t need a push up bra, but he knew it would look spectacular on her—at least until he decided to peel it off.
But not all of his gifts were sexual in nature. He knew what breakfast she liked to order from a particular restaurant that he also knew she didn’t get to very often anymore, so he contacted the owner and had it delivered to her just about the time he knew she got to the office in the morning.
He’d found out when she had an opening in her schedule and made an appointment for himself, but sent a masseuse over, instead.
One day, she opened her front door to find a fluffy white Maine Coon cat in a basket on her doorstep with a note that let her know that she was a rescue from the local Humane Society and her name was Angel.
So much for the ruthless mob boss persona, Ally’d thought as she’d rubbed her face against the kitten’s soft fur.
A week or so after the kitten had come into her life, she found him waiting for her at her car when she left the office for the day, leaning against the driver’s side door.
“You know you really should have someone doing your driving for you nowadays,” he suggested, his tone letting her know that it wasn’t a suggestion.
“I don’t care. I like to drive. It gives me time to think,” she informed him, already futzing with her keys to find the right one.
To make a point, Enzo caught the wrist in which she had the keys and hauled her up against him roughly. “You’d be dead right now if I had nefarious intentions, Allegra.”
Ally merely arched an eyebrow at him with a small smile on her face. “Aren’t all of your intentions nefarious, Enzo?”
Instead of answer her, he stepped back and relieved her of her briefcase. “Let me take that for you.” He stowed it in back then guided her to the other side of the car with an insistent hand at the small of her back and opened the passenger’s door for her. Sighing and knowing there was little she was going to do to dissuade him, Ally smirked as she took her seat. “I have a distinct memory of locking my car this morning.”
He had the grace to blush a bit, but, after moving her seat back to accommodate his long legs, he joined her in the car and held out his hand to her. “And I’m sure you did. It would be the prudent thing to do.” he replied smoothly, holding his hand out to her.
“What’s the matter? Can’t you start it without the key?” she asked pointedly.
“I’m sure I could hot wire it in a matter of minutes, but I’d rather spend the time with you, since the keys are in your hand.”
Ally’s grip on them tightened compulsively and she hesitated about giving them to him. “Why are you here?”
“I thought I’d take you out to dinner, maybe some dancing?”
At first, she wasn’t sure whether or not he was joking, but Enzo rarely joked. She hadn’t done either of those things in more time than she wanted to consider, but she wasn’t at all sure she should do them with him. She certainly wanted to, but unfortunately, there were other considerations—other important considerations.
But how long had it been since she’d gone dancing? And, as she could remember from the various obligatory social functions they had both attended—although not together, obviously—Enzo was a wonderful dancer.
How would it feel to be held in those strong arms during a slow dance? The idea sent a shiver down her spine, partly because she knew where dancing might lead them at the end of the evening—if she allowed it. She already knew how those hands, those fingers, those lips could devastate her, driving her to the brink of desire and holding her there for as long as he wanted, and there was precious little she could do about it.
She ought to say no. She ought to turn him down flat. They could not become involved in a relationship. It just wasn’t done. He had his business, and she had hers, and never the blah, blah, blah.
She shouldn’t have let herself look up at him. His eyes were compellingly blue, stark and sharp, not asking but not quite telling—yet—either. She knew that if she got involved with him—especially having found out that he liked to spank—there was every possibility that he was going to begin to forgo asking entirely, and she wasn’t at all sure she’d like that idea, despite the fact that the mere thought had her lower body spasming pleasurably.
For once, and probably at the worst time, she gave in and did what she wanted to do, rather than what was good for her, and she hoped she wouldn’t regret her decision to throw caution to the wind and deepen her involvement with this very sexy, very dangerous man.
He was—almost—a perfect gentleman all evening, extremely attentive and very romantic. She had thought he’d take her to the most expensive place in town, but instead, they ended up a small supper club with a live band and a big dance floor. The food was excellent, and he had her out on the floor, in his arms, practically the entire rest of the night.
Despite the fact that he was subtly trying to ply her with liquor—drinks before, wine with dinner, then champagne the few times they made it back to their table—Ally kept her drinking under control. She was already flirting with disaster just by being seen out with him and she didn’t want to be drunk at the same time. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust him—but she didn’t quite trust him.
The last time he allowed them off the dance floor, he suggested dessert, since they’d worked off every bit of the sumptuous meal they’d eaten.
“You know me entirely too well for my own comfort, you realize.”
He gave her a look that she knew he meant to be innocent, a small, slightly lopsided smile combined with the fake surprise in his eyes, but she knew there wasn’t an innocent bone in his body. “Little ole’ me?”
Drunk or not drunk, that set her off—the idea of him trying to portray a southern belle—complete with the accent and wispy voice that he definitely couldn’t pull off—had her practically howling.
He didn’t even let her see the dessert menu, which was probably just as well. She was ravenous and would probably have ordered one of everything, but what appeared was exactly what she would have ordered—it was a slice of peanut butter pie, with a buttery graham cracker crust, a thin layer of chocolate fudge on the bottom, fluffy peanut butter filling that was just right sweet atop that, then another thin layer of chocolate fudge, miles of homemade whipped cream with fudge shavings flecking it.
After the waiter had placed the enormous confection in front of her and left, he leaned over. “I remembered that, as a kid, anyway, you loved peanut butter and chocolate anything. I hope you haven’t developed an allergy.”
Ally had already taken her first gigantic, gleeful spoonful, and answered him with some of it still melting in her mouth, “No!”
Then she hacked off a huge spoonful and offered it to him.
Enzo wasn’t a sweets person—he was the opposite of her in a lot of ways. But he opened his mouth dutifully and let her feed him, catching her hand when she would have withdrawn it and turning it palm up to lick a spot of whipped cream off the side of her hand.
Suddenly, every bit of the playfulness she had felt fled her body to be replaced by a flood of memories of their lovemaking—standing, fully exposed, in front of that mirrored window, his head between her legs moments later on his big bed, the way he’d refused to let her control her own orgasm and how hot that had made her.
Enzo—who was more attuned to her than he’d ever been of any woman in his life—saw that look, the way her face paled just a bit then blushed furiously, how she was biting her lip and avoiding his eyes, shifting in her chair as if she was suddenly sitting uncomfortably.
And he hadn’t even spanked her—yet.
He stood up and threw an enormous pile of money onto the table suddenly, taking a firm hold of her arm and guiding her out of the restaurant. She barely had time to grab the collar of her coat and drag it along behind her.
“What happened?” Ally asked, wondering if she had done something wrong.
They had reached her car, and he stopped her from trying to get into the passenger’s door by pulling on her arm, slamming her up against him and claiming her mouth with his before she could get a word out and making her not care one bit about that.
His arm worked its way under her coat so that he was hugging her, not its bulk, holding her tightly enough against him that there was absolutely no mistaking either of the bulges she was feeling—not the one from the gun he had holstered beneath his jacket, keeping it strapped to his left side where it would be readily available, or the even more threatening one behind the zipper of his very expensive pants.
“Need you,” he ground out against her lips. “Now.”
Ally felt the same way—perhaps even a bit more keenly, but neither of them were seventeen, and she had less than no interest in having to maneuver her way around a stick shift in the front or trying to cram the two of them into her practically nonexistent back seat. “My house—it’s right around the corner,” she suggested, kissing him back for all she was worth.
“I knew there was a reason I chose this place,” came his growled response.
They were there—what had been her childhood home that they both knew just about as well—in record time. Ally was very glad they hadn’t been stopped for speeding—the angels must’ve been on the side of lust for once.