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My rules are law, and no one has ever dared even to bend them, but for her I will break them all. She was not meant to be mine, but I will make her mine. She is forbidden, but I must have her…
Language: english
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Dark Coven

Language: english
File: EPUB, 206 KB
Forbidden

By

Alta Hensley





Copyright © 2019 by Stormy Night Publications and Alta Hensley All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Published by Stormy Night Publications and Design, LLC.

www.StormyNightPublications.com –––––––– Hensley, Alta

Forbidden

Cover Design by Korey Mae Johnson Image by Shutterstock/Jacob Lund –––––––– This book is intended for adults only. Spanking and other sexual activities represented in this book are fantasies only, intended for adults.





Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

More Stormy Night Books by Alta Hensley

Alta Hensley Links





Chapter One




Raychel

I pulled into the parking lot of Cajun Jazz’s Diner—a popular hangout for the locals that the flood of tourists overlooked because it appeared like a place the Board of Health should have condemned years ago. I didn’t like crowds, and I knew my lunch date felt the same way. As I ascended the somewhat rickety staircase and adjusted my slim skirt, I suddenly wished I’d gone with one that was a bit longer and dowdier. Maybe I should have just stuck with my go-to jeans and paint-splattered tee. It wouldn’t do to appear at all sexy around Anthony LaSalla. The man was overprotective and would worry about unwanted attention I could get just by walking down the street.

I stood in the doorway, looking at my reflection for the briefest of seconds. Small and slender, I barely came up to Anthony’s shoulders. Although my outfit may have been too sexy, it was impeccable—a black blouse and gray skirt from a secondhand store that had cost less than this meal was going to, even though it was more than I usually spent on clothing. One of my favorite hair clips that had belonged to my mother sat jauntily atop my shoulder-length hazelnut hair. The ivory clip was the only thing I had on that was of any real monetary value.

Overall, I didn’t mind being poor that much. I’d never really had a lot of money, so I didn’t miss it. I had grown up the only daughter of immigrants from Russia. Both my mother and father had worked all the time, and I kind of got lost in the crowd. And that was the way I liked it. My mother had died at a young age, and my father had been busy building his name for the Russian mafia and was hardly ever around. My father wasn’t high enough up the chain of command to provide much more than a roof over our heads. Every man for himself was the way I was brought up. I’d been cutting coupons since I could hold the scissors safely in my hands, and my adult life hadn’t changed anything.

I always felt I never did anything with my life. A starving artist who could barely pay my bills, but refused to give up my dream of seeing my work hang prominently on a gallery’s wall.

A dreamer.

Or maybe I just used my art as an excuse to never apply myself to anything else.

The argument could be made for both.

I opened the door and pasted a smile on my face. The restaurant choice was mine—it was the cheapest place in New Orleans since Anthony steadfastly refused to eat at a fast food joint, and I insisted on us splitting the bill. It was a battle fought and eventually won on my part, but Anthony never liked the idea of going Dutch. Maybe it was the fact that if he paid, our casual monthly lunches would feel like a date to me. And a date with my deceased father’s best friend wasn’t an option.

I was overdressed, but I had to do something to counter his casual elegance that would just strain a touch as his shirt stretched across the breadth of his shoulders, hugging the bulging muscles of his arms as he leaned forward to reach for his coffee cup. Anthony was well into middle age, but showed absolutely no signs of either an encroaching paunch or a rapidly surrendering hairline. If anything, he was looking leaner and meaner than ever since my father’s death, and that was five years ago. I was beginning to think he lived on hot black coffee and not much else.

Conservatively cropped black hair and thick black eyebrows framed eyes bluer than any man ought to be allowed to have. He was perpetually tanned due to his Italian heritage. He was tall, broad, and solid, in every possible way. Anthony LaSalla was hard and serious—except when it came to me. He’d always had a soft spot for me. I used to watch him when I was barely eighteen—before I lived on my own and still resided under my father’s roof. I could see the softening that took over his expression whenever he looked at me. His whole demeanor changed when he was around me. The innocent love and warmth in his eyes was almost painful to see.

Very painful to me.

It wasn’t the kind of love I had wanted.

He acted like an honorary uncle, and for a young woman who had a schoolgirl crush on a much older and powerful man, the demeaning pats on the head, or the way he always acted as if I were a child—even now—crushed the dream of there ever being more.

Anthony was one of those rare men who knew exactly what he was about at all times. He exuded confidence and intelligence. Born of meager beginnings, he had run with a line of formidable men, but he had built a name to be feared and respected on his own. When he had met my father, who was involved in Russian mafia business dealings, he was already running his own empire, and growing it even bigger. He also owned a membership-only men’s club called Black Secrets that my father was part of. Anthony wasn’t flashy or boorish, but classy and steady. And he made class and steadfastness incredibly sexy. The air around him crackled, while he sat back and watched what happened.

But since my father’s death, he’d been away more and more, and I couldn’t say as I blamed him. He’d lost a close friend when my father had been murdered. The moment that bullet had entered the back of my father’s head, Anthony had lost someone who was practically family, and seeing me only reminded him of what he had lost. I wasn’t the responsibility of Anthony LaSalla even though he had sworn to my father that he would forever protect and look after me.

Slipping into our usual booth opposite him, I looked up quickly to find Anthony staring intently at me. My heart stopped. It was disconcerting for anyone to pay that much attention to my every move—I did my best to blend into the woodwork. There must be something wrong.

“What? Do I have toilet paper on my shoe or something on my face?”

He almost smiled. His smiles had always been rare events—he wasn’t the joke a minute type. “No, I just forget sometimes how much you look like your father.”

“I do not,” I defended staunchly. “We don’t look a thing alike. I’m not an old Russian man.”

“No, you most certainly aren’t. But you have the same air about you.”

The waitress appeared at that point, and I ordered my boring usual—a cup of shrimp gumbo offered as an appetizer. It was also one of the cheapest things on the menu. I could see Anthony grimacing over a menu that hadn’t changed since Eisenhower was in office. He finally settled on his own usual—a pulled pork sandwich with fries and a Coke.

Taking a sip of my tepid tap water, I corrected, “We never had the same air. Father was—well, you know how Father was.”

Everyone loved my dad. I knew he was feared on the streets as being a killer and had a reputation of being beyond ruthless, but at home and around friends, he was charming and could light up the room with his boisterous energy. I, on the other hand, just hid behind an easel and only dealt with people if I had to.

Anthony didn’t say a word, just raised his eyebrow as he seemed to be studying me even more.

I sighed and laced my fingers on the tabletop.

His eyes narrowed on me enough to make me fidget with my napkin.

“Anyway, how have things been going with you?” I asked, deliberately attempting to change the odd energy I was feeling. “How’s Black Secrets?”

Anthony held my eyes for just a millisecond longer, letting me know that he knew exactly what I was doing. “All right. Busy.”

“Hiring?” I asked with a smile.

I was teasing him. As much as I would have died for a waitress job at Black Secrets due to the amount I could make in tips alone, Anthony had already made it quite clear that I would never be working there as long as he was alive. He had said time and time again that Black Secrets was no place for a girl like me.

“Funny,” he mumbled. But he continued to stare at me as if taking in every dark secret I possessed.

I shifted in my seat as surreptitiously as I could. He had a habit of doing that—of paying closer attention to me than I was used to anyone doing. Commenting on something I’d said that no one else had heard, making me feel special, as if I mattered much more than I knew I did. He did it in a very father figure fashion, as casual as a man like him could be.

And every time he did it, every time those all too knowing eyes settled on me, my core clenched.

I had been harboring a horrid secret throughout my late adolescence until now, one that I fully intended to take to the grave with me: I was in love with my father’s best friend.

It hadn’t happened gradually, either. I had been introduced to Anthony when he was invited to dinner one night, and I had lost my heart to him on first sight when I was just eighteen. My father was sadly resigned that I had chosen not to attend college, but we were trying to make the best of it. I came into the room and saw him sitting there—in my usual chair—and I knew I was a goner, that whatever gurgles of feeling I’d had for any boys before were no more than emotional indigestion. Anthony LaSalla was all man, and I instantly became hooked.

This man had reached out and grabbed a hold of my barely beating heart and made me feel alive, made me feel like I could do anything. He then quickly looked away and began talking business with my father. Confused with my rush of emotions, I took a seat as far away from my new obsession as I could get.

What I’d felt then toward Anthony had never gone away, and never diminished. To the contrary, the longer I knew him, the more acute my responses became. It got so that I could barely stand to be in the same room with him, and yet I couldn’t stay away. He and my father had always been close, and since they were in the same ‘circle of friends,’ they spent a lot of time together. I tried desperately not to feel the way I did, and was scrupulously careful not to reveal any of my feelings toward Anthony to anyone. There wasn’t another living soul who knew how I felt about him. I kept it all inside and smiled and laughed and ate dinner with them as if there was nothing more than me being Daddy’s little girl, curious about his crime and underground doings.

Anthony still unknowingly held my heart in his hands, but I would never encroach on my father’s territory, even after death. It would be wrong, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It wasn’t about the age to me, or that I should be calling Anthony Uncle Anthony rather than picturing myself having sex with him.

It was the fact that my father expected Anthony to watch over me... not fuck me.

But I could no more give up our once a month luncheons post Father’s death than I could give up chocolate chip ice cream. He fascinated me, always had, and I needed my fix. Anthony occasionally called to ask me out to dinner, or to accompany him to a social function, but as hard as it was, I always declined. I didn’t know how far I could be trusted with him, and I refused to do anything that might dishonor my father’s memory. I was quite sure that being seen around town with your father’s dear friend fell well into impropriety, so I always turned him down. Lunch was safe... or at least I kept telling myself that.

Just like every other monthly meal, we sat and talked about the weather, what we had been doing for the past month, and other inconsequential topics. Although not terribly exciting, it was comfortable and always made me feel a sense of calm.

Toward the end of the meal, he threw his napkin on his plate. “Next time, we’re going someplace where the food is decent.”

“This is decent,” I peeped indignantly.

That eyebrow shot up as he pinned me with a glance. “It’s barely edible. Next month we’re going to Luciano’s.”

I pursed my lips. “The pretentious Italian restaurant? I can’t afford it.”

Another near smile. “But I can, and I’m taking you. For dinner. And I’m not taking ‘no’ for an answer. I work too damn hard for my money to be eating in dives like this. And there are far too many good restaurants in New Orleans to be wasting our time here.”

I held my breath, my eyes skittering away from his to the neutral territory of the scratched Formica tabletop. I knew—just from being around him—that Anthony was a very dominant man. Certainly not abusively so—well, at least not toward women—in any way, but there was never any question as to who was in charge in his relationship with me. Anthony never hesitated to lay down the law in more ways than one.

Anthony LaSalla had spanked me.

God, even thinking about that statement made me want to blush and giggle like an adolescent schoolgirl.

But it was a day I would never forget.

Never.

I remember that I had come fervently knocking on Anthony’s door, looking for a refuge after having had a bit of a fender bender while trying to parallel park downtown. I’d barely been able to get out much of anything beyond, “Oh, man, am I in trouble! You have to help me keep it from Father. Please.”

That Lincoln Town Car was as close to a baby as Father had now that I was grown, and he had saved nearly a year for it. I had taken it because my own car was in the shop.

Without telling my father.

And now it was in need of repair—preferably before he missed it.

After Anthony gave me a once-over to make sure I wasn’t hurt, his look of concern had turned to one of anger.

Coming to him for refuge was a grave mistake. My father’s wrath would have been nothing in comparison to Anthony’s.

I barely made it through the door before he had my pants and panties down. He put his foot up on the seat of a tapestried chair he had in the foyer and hauled me over his knee. I was hanging there, over his leg. My feet didn’t touch the floor, and neither could my hands. I worried the whole time I was going to overbalance and end up falling on my head, but I should have known better. I wasn’t going anywhere until he let me go, which was when my butt was about the color of the vermillion paint I had used earlier for a sunset picture. He stopped—eventually—and tugged me into the living room, and I could see my butt in the tri-fold mirror over a narrow table before he dropped onto the couch, pulled me over his lap, and started up again. He spanked me so hard and long. I think the only reason he stopped was because his hand started to hurt. I had to then go home and deal with the lecture from my father with a sore behind. I never told him or anyone that I had been disciplined by Anthony LaSalla.

An incident that had only fueled my fantasies and obsession with the man.

I was shifting as if I could feel the spanking even now, though this had happened years ago.

“Raychel? Raychel, are you all right?” Anthony waved his hand in front of my face, trying to get me to come back to him. It wasn’t like me to space out like that, at least not unless I was painting.

“I’m here, I’m here.” I wrestled my mind away from the vivid memories of the man who was currently sitting less than two feet away from me and when he had spanked my bare bottom. I crossed my legs delicately under the table, but it was really just to see if I could alleviate the ache those thoughts created in several places at once—in my heart, in my mind, and in much more earthy areas on my person.

But clenching my legs together only served to help me realize my trip down memory lane had caused my pussy to leak, soaking my panties.

“You were miles away. What were you thinking?” Anthony asked.

I racked my brain to come up with an answer that was not provocative or related in any way to what I’d been rolling around in my mind. “That I can’t afford Luciano’s. I’ll meet you here again next month.”

I started to scoot across the maroon vinyl bench, but his hand over mine stopped me dead. His touch felt as if he were an ER doctor laying a live paddle on my hand. Anthony had never been a touchy person, so I was surprised by the warmth of his fingertips on my skin.

“You’re not listening to me.” That voice was like a swatch of rich velvet being pulled over a chunk of rough granite. It was soft, but it commanded obedience. My nipples loved it, begging with tight, aching peaks for just a little of his attention. “Next month, on the fifth, at Luciano’s. I’ll pick you up at seven.”

I only got the ‘n’ sound of ‘no’ out before he cut in.

“Not one word.”

I glared at him, but continued to get out of the booth, clutching the check for my lunch like a banner to ward him off. I didn’t want to take his charity in any way. Not companionship-wise, and certainly not money-wise. That’s one of the reasons I always insisted we eat here—I knew I could afford it, once a month.

We both paid, then he walked me out to my junker of a car, shaking his head as he always did at its condition. “This thing should be condemned.”

“Ya know, you need to get a new line to insult my car with.”

“There’s certainly a lot to work with.”

“Well, if you hired me as a cigar girl or something at your swanky club, then maybe I could buy a nicer vehicle. Not my fault you won’t let me work there.”

I knew by bringing up Black Secrets again, he would drop the subject of money since clearly the thought of me walking through his establishment’s doors was a no go.

I slid behind the wheel and rolled down the window when he crouched beside it. “Remember. The fifth of next month. I’ll pick you up at seven.”

“Uh huh. You’re too busy for that. You’ll have something else to do that night. Like smoking cigars and drinking expensive bourbon.”

Anthony frowned, and it was a truly terrible thing. “If I have anything important come up, I’ll cancel it,” he growled. “Drive carefully.”

That was it. He’d ordered, and I knew from past experiences with him that I’d better obey.

Or else.

Would he spank me again if I said no to dinner?

I shivered at the thought, then pulled out into traffic and tried—unsuccessfully—to forget about Anthony LaSalla.





Chapter Two




Raychel

I pulled into my parking space late that same night, hearing the crackling crunch of the frozen rain beneath the tires of the car. Damn, I hated winter—hail was uncommon for my city, but this winter had been unusually wetter and colder than normal for NOLA. I gathered up the few small groceries in their useless thin plastic bags and slung my purse over my shoulder, then climbed the three flights of outside stairs to the only apartment in the French Quarter that I not only adored, but one that I—the brilliant starving artist—could afford. At this point, I was much more starving than brilliant. I’d already realized the cold hard truth about being an artist was that you had to die in order to be appreciated, and despite the fact that I was largely alone in this world with only a handful of friends, I wasn’t in any particular hurry to leave it.

I plunked my keys, purse, and the groceries—which consisted more of ramen soup than anything else—on the countertop of my galley kitchen, then flipped on the ceiling light that illuminated my small apartment, and all of my ‘children.’

That was how I thought of my paintings—all of them. They were like the children I’d never had. Probably never would have. I stuck to those things I loved—the city of New Orleans, the buildings, the people—as much as possible, but occasionally indulged in a portrait or two. The canvases were lined up around the perimeter of the cramped apartment, like soldiers leaning against a wall for a moment of R and R in the midst of battle.

I couldn’t have picked a favorite amongst the non-portraits if I had to. I loved them all equally—daily life of the city and I were partners, always had been. My visions of the energy that flowed on the streets played out in the incredibly detailed canvases before me, and every time I looked at them, they magically transported me to the streets of the town I loved. They were so realistic I would swear I should be smelling the spicy aroma of rich foods, and the earthiness of the flora filling the air all around inside my apartment. Luckily, the subject of my fascination was right outside my door, and I often spent my time—when I wasn’t trudging through my waitress job—letting the city absorb me and then watching it come alive as I mixed colors as vibrant as the city itself, transferring its very essence to canvas with every loving brushstroke beneath my hand.

I never felt as much at peace as I did when I was painting in Jefferson Square or by the river. Everything else—every worry, every dunning phone call, every pang of loss or regret—escaped my soul, and I was left open and vulnerable but safe and sound in the arms of a city I would forever call home.

I always added more to the paintings than just what I saw. Red flowers, or roses in particular—they were a testament to my mother who’d worked hard to keep the family fed, but on those rare days off, she’d spent her time growing roses in the back yard. I never could get over their stark beauty, so I strived to reproduce it, never quite managing to match the images in my mind.

I sat down on the beat-up old couch that also served as my bed many a night since it seemed to make me feel less lonely than sleeping alone in my bed, and flipped on the TV, but my eye was already caught by the canvases that were in front of me. Two portraits—one of my father, and one of Anthony. They were bigger than any of the others. One was still on the easel because I couldn’t resist tinkering with it, although it had been finished long ago. They were both done from memory, one a tribute and the other... the other a sad testimonial to what might have been—to what still lived inside me, and always would.

A sick obsession.

A silly girl’s dream of what she could never have.

They were my best works, and could never, would never be seen by anyone.

The portrait of my father was perfection itself—just as he had been in my eyes. Familiar tears welled as I stared into my father’s clear blue eyes. I’d gotten the curl of Father’s almost white-blond hair, and the ethereal quality of his expression shone through so clearly that it was almost eerie. It was something I’d had to do—a compulsion I couldn’t deny, and I’d painted it six months after my father died, painting for nearly a week straight, barely stopping for food or sleep. When it was done, I had collapsed into a heap on the couch, much as I had this evening, just staring at him as if it held the key to my salvation. It was a masterpiece, and it would never see the light of day. It was mine and only mine.

Anthony, on the other hand, seemed to smolder on the canvas. I’d always wondered why the fabric didn’t smoke beneath the paint. It was him, in all his dominant, self-assured, unbelievably sexy glory. His head was just slightly cocked, chin down, one coal black eyebrow raised the tiniest bit. He really had too big a nose and too prominent a jawline to be considered classically handsome, but that expression would be enough to stop the heart of any woman from eighteen to eighty. That was partly why I almost always kept it at the back of my closet—because that look was just too intense for comfort.

I’d portrayed him the way I always saw him—in crisp slacks and his black shirt—but had taken the liberty of making him look much more rumpled than I had ever seen him. As if he were just recovering from a particularly deep, sexual kiss and was about to reach for me to turn me onto the desk beneath him. The usual black cotton shirt was pulled out of his waistband, several of the buttons of his shirt opened so that it hung just artfully enough to display the smattering of chest hair over the tanned, muscular ripples beneath. He was leaning back against a desk, his arms folded on his chest, and I always imagined that that must be what he looked like just before sex.

That painting wasn’t so much a portrait as a desire unfulfilled. It was the way I wished, in my heart of hearts, that he would look at me.

It was funny, because if he ever did look at me like that—as if he were going to sweep me up into his arms and carry me to the bedroom to ravish me—I would turn tail and run into the next state. It wasn’t that I didn’t want Anthony—I did. More than almost anything in the world. My passion for him was as deep and true as my passion for painting, but it was also more raw and uncontrolled. That was one of the reasons that, although I had always been close to Anthony and maintained that relationship even after my father’s death, I had never allowed myself to become particularly comfortable around the man.

My feelings wouldn’t allow for comfort, and seeing him too regularly, being reminded of that which I would never—could never—have, was just a bit too much.

My only saving grace was I didn’t think my father knew of my fixation on a man completely out of my childish league.

After Anthony had spanked my bare ass, Father had noticed that I tended to refuse to go to dinner with the two of them like I used to, and that I rarely made an appearance at the house if I thought Anthony was going to be there, and he told me outright that he understood. That Anthony made a lot of people nervous. That Anthony’s world was a scary place and he didn’t want me to be part of it at all. Hypocritical since my father had been delving even deeper into the Russian mafia.

I had choked on the lemonade I was drinking, and managed not to disgrace myself by telling Father that the reason I was uncomfortable around Anthony was that he could make me wet just by his mere existence. I let Father think what he wanted to think. No one in this world knew just how vulnerable I was—or could be—to his best friend.

Most particularly not the man himself.

I got up and poured myself a glass of water, coming back to stand in front of my version of Anthony and eyed him with a glare I would never dare use in real life. I loved him. I wanted him. But at the same time, I hated him because he’d only see me as his friend’s kid and nothing more. I knew he loved me. But as family.

Uncle Anthony.

A minuscule part of me worried that somehow, Father had known about the lustful thoughts that had filled my mind whenever Anthony was within a three-mile radius. That somehow, I’d caused Father’s death with those naughty, taboo thoughts.

Sinners must pay the price.

That maybe my punishment for being such an awful daughter was God taking Father away from me forever.

And yet, despite the needless guilt that sometimes snuck up on me, I still coveted him. Although, as far as I was concerned, he was just as off limits since Father died as he had been while he was alive. Anthony didn’t want me. He didn’t need me. He kept seeing me out of the goodness of his heart, and because I was all he had left. I snorted. It wasn’t like he had much choice. He was alone in this world just as I was.

“Why do you torture me?” I whispered at the portrait. Sometimes I hated him at least as much as I loved him.

I stood there, tears dripping down my cheeks, and stared at my image of perfection, of what I ached for but could never have as it seared its way slowly through my heart.





Chapter Three




Anthony

I threw my reading glasses down onto the top of my solid mahogany desk, pinching the bridge of my nose hard, when that was just why I’d removed the damned glasses in the first place. My eyes settled where they always did when I gave them free rein—which wasn’t often in my busy life running companies and acting as the operating manager of Black Secrets—on the picture of Dasha, my best friend, and the family I had become part of. We were all posed around the table during a vacation trip we had done.

Since we all adored the snow, we’d taken a vacation in the middle of the winter one year. We spent our time racing each other on snowmobiles, skiing down the mountain through inches of fresh powder, and traversing the slopes on snowboards. But we’d also taken a couple of days and gone down to the cape, thoroughly enjoying the fact that we practically had the place to ourselves. I had taken my thirty-five millimeter on our walks and had gotten some great shots of the sea, and even better candid photos of Raychel as she stared off into what she called heaven. Next to the picture of the family... Dasha’s family, I also had a picture of Raychel with the ocean highlighting every delicate and beautiful feature she had.

I had been teasing her unmercifully about how bundled up she was, so she’d knocked down the hood of her jacket, and I had caught her at a moment I always thought of as most herself—turned back toward me, away from the sea, her hair streaming out behind her, a big as life grin on her face that made me ache to smile back at her—even years later.

I was sick of feeling the way I had since Dasha’s death—cold and empty and lonely. I missed his friendship, but I also missed the sense of family I’d had with him and his daughter. It was even getting to the point where I was sick of work, which was absolutely unheard of for me. Rising in power was everything I strived toward. Or at least it had been.

I’d always been a loner. Like Raychel, I’d also lost my father to murder. And like Dasha’s death, I knew we’d never truly know the reasons why both men had to die. I’d grown up with my mom as a single parent at a time when single parenting in our community was definitely not all the rage. I had ended up having to spend an inordinate amount of time with the wrong kind of people trying to prove myself in the underbelly of the world for the sake of my father’s memory. I knew I was quiet and serious even from toddlerhood, and it wasn’t until I grew up and filled out that I began to get much in the way of attention from anyone else. Once my shoulders began to broaden and my voice dropped sexily, nearly every girl in school ran after me.

But I was having none of it. I’d seen my mother’s battle, working herself to the bone to run a struggling household with only the help of her young son, trying to make a decent life for him and get the things he wanted. I had made up my mind early on that that I was going to make enough money that my mother wasn’t going to have to work anymore, and I’d run and grow an empire to its full potential no matter how dirty my hands had to get to get there. I would be the man that my father and his father’s father would be proud of. The LaSalla name would not be lost, and I would keep their memory alive, and the name would be synonymous with power.

My dreams had been realized to an incredible extent, due to some smart business moves and connecting with the right people. I had been able to keep my mother comfortable until the day she peacefully passed. I had made her proud regardless if it was crime money that paid the bills. It’s all she ever knew, and she never once judged me for it.

The only thing that had been missing in my life was a special woman. Despite my father’s early death, I always remembered the healthy dynamic and love my parents shared. I also knew it was the same dynamic my grandparents had—old-fashioned and traditional. The man was the head of the household and had a duty to lead, protect, and love the woman of his life unconditionally. It wasn’t a hard concept for me to grasp. I liked to be in charge, there was no doubt about that. I took the lead in nearly anything I did, and I would want a woman who could be comfortable with that arrangement. I fully intended to be the head of my household, although that didn’t mean that I would ever discount my wife in any way.

I wanted an equal partner.

I wanted a strong woman—strong enough to submit and allow me to have the final say on major decisions. To fully trust that her man would do what’s right and always have his wife’s best interest at heart.

I would also take my wife over my knee if I felt she needed it and then fuck her brains out after. Although this wasn’t something that I revealed to every woman I dated, and there were definitely some who could have used a good session with my belt. I let those ladies go with absolutely no regrets. I didn’t want a bratty woman. I would spank, and I believed that the man being the head of the household and disciplining his wife when he saw fit was the natural and normal way of things. But it wasn’t something I wanted to have to do every five seconds. I took the idea of leading and protecting very seriously, and I knew my potential partner was going to have to feel the same way. I was into some kinky shit when it came to sex, but this desire took precedence over most others and the right woman needed to come along to feed it.

I was an alpha asshole, and had no shame in admitting it.

That’s not to say that I didn’t have a lot of women in my life. I did. Ever since I’d gotten smacked upside the head with the load of testosterone that was puberty, I’d had almost more women hanging around me than I could deal with. In high school, the young girls would practically stalk me. And the older they got, the subtler they became, but there were no fewer of them. And when they knew I was connected to the mafia, assassins, thieves, and just overall bad guys, they should have been smart and run away... they did the complete opposite. And then of course owning Black Secrets only fueled my desire more. I owned a playground where every fantasy could be met with parties in The Party Room and the men who attended the parties could quench their every thirst.

Sometimes I didn’t mind a casual fuck. Sometimes I wanted to be left alone. It was a balance that I’d been happy with as long as I’d had Dasha and his daughter as my surrogate family to ground me. To keep my ego in check and remind me that I was a human being who still enjoyed meatloaf and to watch a Sunday night football game with a buddy. But now that he was dead... things seemed darker and I wasn’t rebounding as I should. I worked around death used as consequences for deals gone bad. I had lost more friends than I could count. You couldn’t be where I was in the circle I frequented and expect to grow old or have friends who do the same. Not unless you were dying old behind bars.

But my friendship with Dasha was different.

He was Russian mafia. Part of the Bratva brotherhood. In all reality, we shouldn’t have been friends, but somehow a dark Italian corporate CEO and an even darker Russian prick hit it off. We worked together and had a mutual respect for each other, but we also traveled together and did normal things like dinner and watching the game.

Dasha was my normal.

Now I just felt like a dark motherfucker again. Alone.

Work helped—the length of my work weeks was getting to be ridiculous. They were the things of which legends were made. But the solace was empty. Beyond the isolation, there were miles and miles of nothingness, and I considered walking away from the dark world altogether. I knew that my partners at Black Secrets would shit themselves if I left. But I was growing weary of being there every night. I had no desire to take part in the parties. Most of my partners were getting serious with women and weren’t present like they once were. Now that they were even wealthier fucks, they were settling down and becoming respectable. I wasn’t sure what the fuck was going on, but the dynamic of our club was changing and it no longer had the same appeal to me that it once had. Even though the club was packed on most nights, I was over smoking cigars and drinking gin with men who didn’t measure up to Dasha.

It was getting old, or I was getting lonely. Or I just needed a fucking attitude check.

I wasn’t sure what the fuck I would do, but I was tired and sick of just about everything. I needed to get my shit together.

The one bright spot in my life was the only social engagement I cared to keep—my once a month lunches with Raychel.

She was a strange, timid little creature. She’d been a rock for me when Dasha died even though I was supposed to comfort her as she grieved for her father, and I wasn’t about to forget that. I’d always liked Raychel, although I knew that she was completely off limits. She was much younger than me and the daughter of my best friend.

Was she fucking beautiful? Hell, yes.

But the answer was no. No fucking way would I even consider her.

Was I lying to myself? Hell, yes.

I considered. Fuck me, I had considered every time I jacked off after a dinner with them.

She was of age... barely.

But I was a total shithead and absolute creep for doing so.

I own it. I own just how fucked up I am.

In a perfect world, and if I were a good man, I would have never considered plunging my cock deep inside of her.

But the world was far from perfect, and I most certainly wasn’t a good man.

But I’d hidden my lustful thoughts from Dasha, and for that, I was proud.

Raychel couldn’t have been any more uncomfortable around me if she’d tried—fidgeting, stuttering, and never meeting my eyes the entire time she was in my presence. She’d only gotten a little better about it since we’d been lunching.

I probably should have let her off the hook about the lunches, but I wanted to stay as close to Dasha’s daughter as I could, and being with Raychel reminded me, in a sad sort of way, what it was like to have someone you loved in your life. She was as close to family as I had. And I enjoyed the lunches, once I pulled her out of her shell. Raychel was smart, and when she was comfortable, had a biting wit that I enjoyed. She had a look of purity but not blatantly so. She got her lovely, naturally curly hair directly from her father. If she was talking about something she was interested in—like her art—her face lit up from within.

Lately, I’d started to worry about her, though. Raychel wasn’t looking well, and she was thin as a rail. She certainly did get more than her share of her father’s stubbornness, though, and adamantly refused to let me take her to lunch, or to go to dinner with me. She was such a shy little thing, and I was so determined not to scare her off and lose any sense of normal that I had left, that I hesitated for a long time to put my foot down. But this afternoon, I just decided that I wasn’t going to let her have her way.

I had been surprised and pleased when she’d acquiesced without too much of a fuss. If I’d known it was going to be that easy, I would have done it months ago... hell, years ago. In fact, I wished I hadn’t held her to meeting a month from then, but maybe the time would help her get her head around it. She’d also gotten a heaping helping of Dasha’s pride. She wouldn’t even let me pick up her lunch even though my paying for her food was a drop in the bucket compared to what I made in a day. She’d practically gotten into a physical fight with me the first time we went out because of it.

Apparently, my look of warning didn’t work on her. It sure as hell scared all the people who worked for me, but not Raychel. She hadn’t so much as batted an eyelash at me.

There was something about Raychel... something unsettling. She made me want to shake her out of her calm, quiet demeanor. It was like she had something to say, but lacked the courage to do so.

She made me want to kiss her out of it, too, and that impulse sent me reeling out of my chair, my back to the picture of Dasha and his daughter, as if I couldn’t bear for the images within the frame to see my shame. I hadn’t had the impulse to kiss someone for so long, it physically hurt me to consider it. To say nothing of how guilty it made me feel. Not only was I contemplating kissing someone much younger than me, but I was contemplating kissing Dasha’s daughter. His fucking daughter!

Forbidden.

Wrong.

So fucked up.

Once the idea formed in my mind, however, I found that I couldn’t let it go. It haunted me, sneaking into my consciousness when I least expected it over the next few weeks—visions of taking that staunch, starched little body and tugging it against mine, letting my hands sweep up into all that hair, bending her head back for my deep, passionate kiss, letting my lips slide slowly over hers—

I shook my head.

Fuck me. I had done a lot of bad things in my life. But these thoughts... nothing I have ever done was as bad as this. She was still a damn kid. Legal age or not, this girl was no match for me. Angelic. Perfection. She had no business being pursued by the damn devil.

“Mr. LaSalla? Are you all right?” Nico Romero, the house manager of Black Secrets, was peering at me as if he thought I’d gone off my rocker because he clearly had been trying to get my attention for a while. He wouldn’t have entered my office otherwise.

I cleared my throat and nodded, more bothered than I wanted to be about how Miss Raychel kept popping into my daydreams. It was disquieting in the extreme.

“I have some interviews lined up for you for the new cigar girl position. Do you want to do them or have your assistant?” he asked. Business as usual.

“I’ll do them.”

“You sure you’re all right?” Nico asked. “If you don’t mind me for saying so, you look like you could use a good cock sucking. You seem wound up tighter than a tittie twister.”

I smirked. “Fine. Just tired, I suppose.”

“Tonight’s theme for the party is Make Me Cry, Daddy. Maybe you should make some pretty lady cry.” Nico laughed. “The girls working the event are all excited about it. The sign-up list to work the party is full and the guest list even fuller.”

“Good,” I mumbled, looking through a stack of papers as my hint that I was done talking.

“It’s becoming a damn nunnery around here with all you owners. You guys have the opportunities of kings but live like damn monks.”

“Is that all? I really have a lot to do.”

Sighing dramatically, Nico shrugged and then said as he was walking out the door, “Fine, I’ll let your sad little self get back to whatever you were doing. See you later.”

Yes... get back to what I was doing. Mourning my friend. Sinning in thoughts.

Rest in peace, Dasha... I want to fuck your daughter.

Jesus fucking Christ.





Chapter Four




Anthony

The phone call came in the evening, the night before we were supposed to go out. I generally screened calls in the evenings once I got home. If anyone needed to get a hold of me, they’d call my cell. Pretty much anyone else could leave a message.

“Hello?”

“Hey. How have you been?”

That was usually what she asked me. Immediately after Dasha’s death, she’d stayed with me for over a week. She took over every mundane duty she could for me to keep herself busy while also handling the funeral home and helping to write the obituary. I had felt more lost than I’d ever felt in my life aside from losing my own mother and father, and my usual ability to get things done and handle details had vacated the premises. For a few days, I let Raychel take care of me more than I’d let anyone since my mother. Usually, I was the one who did the caretaking in any situation. And she was the one who had lost her father. Rather than growing weak by his death, she seemed to become stronger. Grief didn’t kick her ass, but it sure as fuck had mine. But she didn’t seem to think any less of me for it. I was sure I would have seen it in her eyes if she had.

I couldn’t stifle a yawn. “I’m okay, how are you?”

“Stop that! It’s contagious!” she yawned back, barely intelligible.

“Sorry, long day.”

I had a bad feeling about why she was calling, and I decided to preempt her.

“Is this the call where you beg off tomorrow night?” I asked.

Bullseye. Complete silence from the other end. I leaned back in my big leather chair, crossing my ankle over my knee, my eyes narrowing as if I had her called onto the carpet in front of me.

“Are you hurt?” I asked calmly.

A pointed pause before she answered very reluctantly, “No.”

“Are you sick?”

Raychel sighed in exasperation. “No.”

It was my turn to pause. “Are you planning to be either of those things tomorrow, so you can cancel out on me?”

I had her pegged perfectly. Raychel prevaricated just a bit, and sounding quite indignant, said, “I am not!”

“Uh huh.” I didn’t believe her one bit.

“I—uh—I called because I didn’t remember what time you had said, and I wanted to be sure to be ready.”

Not a bad lie, but a lie none the same.

“Seven.”

“Seven,” she repeated.

“Short of contracting malaria or dying, you aren’t going to get out of this.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I almost chuckled at the outright despair in her voice. You would have thought I was asking her to tramp through the sewers instead of accompany me to one of the nicest restaurants in the city. It was nowhere near as pretentious as some of them; the meals were items that anyone could recognize and you didn’t need a degree in French to read the menu. The portions were pretty big, and that was something I, being the size that I was, looked for in a good restaurant. There was nothing I hated more than paying forty dollars or more for a plate and still walking away hungry.

“Yes, and you’d better be ready,” I said.

But, as I recalled, Raychel had never been late to one of our lunches. In fact, she’d beaten me there sometimes and I was Mr. Punctuality.

Order.

Discipline.

Structure.

Me.

*

Raychel

How was I going to survive a dinner alone with him without giving myself away? At night? It was like... it was too close to a date for comfort. Lunches were just that—a meal in the middle of the day. But dinner—that was a date.

“Are you all right?” His deep voice rumbled across the phone.

“Yeah, why?”

“You just don’t sound like yourself.”

It was out of my mouth before I thought about it. “You don’t really know me very well, so how would you know?”

“Intriguing. Makes me want to discover what I’ve been missing. I thought I knew you pretty damn well.”

I was sitting there with my mouth hanging open, my heart battering itself against my ribcage. My mind screamed at me about how bizarre a conversation this was to be having with my dad’s... with Mr. LaSalla.

Mr. LaSalla.

My father’s business associate. His dark companion. A bad man. A ruthless man. A powerful man. A criminal in his own way. A man I should stay the fuck away from...

My fingertips were blue, and I had dry mouth. If I got any more nervous, he’d be visiting me in the hospital tomorrow instead of going out to dinner. I was starting to feel lightheaded.

And, apparently, I was hyperventilating into the phone. “Hey, hey, slow down,” he coaxed as gently as he could. “Take deep breaths. Slow and easy,” he began to repeat hypnotically until my breathing slowed. “Raychel, honey, what’s wrong? Are you not feeling well?”

It was my out. If I said I wasn’t, he would probably let me out of it altogether. But part of me craved another opportunity to see him, in any way, shape, or form, and that was the part that was complaining the loudest. I missed him. I wanted to see him every day, just to drink him in, simply be in his presence. Most of me would have preferred to do that just as a fly on the wall, invisible to him, but able to be physically close to him, hear his voice, smell his spicy aftershave.

Another part of myself, one that had only recently begun to find its voice, was a ticking clock. Not my biological clock—that one was thankfully silent for now. This was the clock that had begun ticking when Father died so suddenly, in the prime of his life. How long was I going to hang back from life, being a spectator rather than a participant, watching friends meeting and getting married and having babies, living the life that I was barely present in, alone and lonely as I was?

Nothing could ever come of my relationship—whatever that was, there really wasn’t a name for it—with Anthony. But I could glean from it what I could. I could have dinner with him and have a good time and do something other than sitting around my apartment when I wasn’t working, completely absorbed in my paintings, living through them where it was comfortable and safe, instead of in the real world, closer to the man I wanted to lie down next to for the rest of my life.

I sighed, hating the war that raged within me about Anthony, desperately wishing that things had been different between us from the start, then feeling the familiar pangs of guilt about somehow betraying my father with my sinful thoughts. “No, I’m fine, really.”

“Are you sure? I can be over there in a second...”

I knew that was no threat, it was a promise, but the last thing I needed was for him to see my apartment. He knew that I lived in the low-rent district part of the city and had always campaigned for me to move somewhere—almost anywhere—else. But the finances weren’t there right now—never had been—for me to be able to afford a move, and I absolutely refused to take any money from anyone. I’d never taken one penny from my father even though he’d tried to persuade me on an almost daily basis.

So there I sat. “No! No, you don’t need to come over. I’m fine.”

He didn’t sound as if he believed me, not one bit. “I think I’m going to arrive on your doorstep in a few minutes unless you convince me otherwise.”

“No! Don’t come over here! I’m fine. Really.”

The line was silent for a moment, then he asked in the gentlest voice I’d ever heard him use, “Is the idea of having dinner with me so terrifying? You have known me for years, Raychel. Am I such a monster?”

“No, no. I don’t think you’re a monster at all.”

“Yeah, but I can make you hyperventilate with just the thought of having to have dinner with me.”

“I’m—I’m just scattered is all. I’ve been painting and my mind sort of gets lost. A bit spacey, I guess. That’s all.”

“I know. I know how important art is to you, but that’s the only thing you do, and being holed up in your apartment by yourself can’t be healthy. But maybe I can help you change that. Maybe we can get you out and about some—have a little fun. God knows after the past couple of years we’ve had, you and I deserve it. I was told today that I’m practically a monk, so I need to not work so much myself and have a little fun. Good food. Good wine. Good company. A good dinner just like we did... just like Dasha enjoyed.”

I was just about to faint. What he was suggesting was just about as close to heaven as I’d ever be able to imagine achieving in this lifetime. And it did sound like fun. Especially with him. I had missed it. My father loved good food, wine, and company. I just couldn’t afford it.

Before the rest of me had a chance to squelch the impulse, I answered, “Yes, that sounds like a good idea.”

“Who are you and what have you done with Raychel?” he asked with a chuckle. “I thought I was going to have to threaten to spank your ass to get you to agree to come out with me on occasion.”

My throbbing heart stopped at the word ‘spank.’ He was kidding obviously, but still the power that single word had almost knocked the wind out of me. It was something I didn’t dwell on... except very late at night, when I was nearly asleep, when thoughts of being spanked by Anthony would creep into my mind. Thoughts of being taken over his lap and swatted, my bottom becoming cherry red while I kicked and cried, then being turned over onto my back so that he could love the hurt away.

Something was wrong with me. Seriously wrong with me.

“I don’t think so,” I replied in what I hoped was a righteously indignant tone.

“Well, you’d best mind your p’s and q’s around me. I’ve done it once, and I’ll do it again.” He chuckled after he uttered the words so casually as if what he said was so ordinary and an everyday occurrence. Like it had been completely normal when he’d spanked me all those years ago.

“I know,” I blurted without thinking. What was coming over me? I didn’t want to talk about that spanking! Not with anyone. It was my dark secret that I fantasized about. Not discussed! I needed to get off this phone, or I was going to end up saying something I would regret.

“You deserved that spanking. I knew Dasha wasn’t going to do it, and someone sure as hell needed to.” He paused for longer than I liked. “But maybe it wasn’t my place. I didn’t think that through when it happened. I just acted out on instinct.” He chuckled again. “Did it make you mad? We’ve never discussed this. It happened and then we just moved on.”

“It didn’t make me mad,” I said softly. God, if he only knew what it really did to me.

“Did you ever tell your dad?” he asked.

“No. Did you?”

“No.” He paused, and the awkward feeling in the pit of my belly grew. “Why not?”

“I don’t know... embarrassed, I guess. Or that he would get even angrier that I went to you in hopes you would help me cover it up.”

“You never came to me expecting me to lie for you again after that,” he said.

I huffed. “No. I learned my lesson that day.”

He laughed. “Good. Is that why you’re so shy around me?”

I was glad he couldn’t see how I was shifting nervously in my chair. He was getting uncomfortably close to the truth. “No—I’m shy of everyone and everything. Haven’t you noticed?”

“I have. I had hoped you’d come to feel safer around me, but that never happened.” There was a long pause on the other end. “Is it because you were worried I would spank you again?”

Okay. That was enough of that. “So,” I said abruptly, “you’re going to pick me up at seven, right?”

He growled, and I thought it was one of the sexiest things I’d ever heard. “I’ll let you go this time—but I intend to get back to this discussion, Raychel Polov. And next time I won’t let you off the hook so easily.”

I shivered. The impulse to say “Yes, sir” was so strong in me, I had to bite my tongue. “Okay. Well, then, I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

“I’ll be there. And if you’re not, Raychel, I’ll find you,” he warned, a bit of a rumble in the deep timbre of his voice.

“I’ll be here. I’ll be here.”

I hung up the phone and sat in my chair for the longest while, replaying what had just happened over and over in my mind, turning it this way and that, trying to see if there was any way to erase what I’d already said, and what he’d said back to me.

The truth about my feelings for Anthony needed to be even more buried than they had been for so many years. He could not find out anything about how much I desired him, how I’d wanted to claim him as mine the moment I’d seen him. I needed to just continue to be Mousy Raychel—my nickname from high school. I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish this. He seemed determined to drag me out of my safe, cozy little shell, and I was going to have to resist with everything I had.

Unfortunately, part of everything I had was a bunch of mutinying body parts that wanted to spend as much time with Anthony as they could, saving up memories for future fantasies.

I padded off to bed, huddling under the down-filled comforter that had been a Christmas present from Anthony two years ago, letting my mind wander into the comfortable fantasy I’d lived on for so long: of being together with Anthony. A fantasy of being in our house, painting in my own studio and greeting him when he came home after a hard day of work. Being swept up into those big arms. He had on occasion embraced me, and I had filed each of those times away, remembering every nuance of it as I was held against his big body as he hugged me tightly. Anthony had always treated me as someone special, just because of who I was to Dasha. His normal guard was down with the family, and he never hesitated to hug me hello or goodbye.

So I knew how strong he was when he wrapped those muscular arms around me, but in my fantasy, these hugs would be different because I was his, and he didn’t have to maintain any sort of respectable distance from me. My body melded to his, desire rising instantly as it always did whenever he was around. I lifted my face to his for a kiss that I deepened myself, twisting my lips beneath his and cupping the short cropped hair at the back of his head in my palm, fanning it in my fingers as our tongues danced together.

Anthony would draw back just a little and kiss the tip of my nose, groaning as he rubbed his lower body against mine, obviously fully capable and ready. “I take it you’ve been lonely all day, my love?”

“Horribly, horribly lonely,” I breathed into his mouth as it returned to its home perched above mine.

“I think I have a remedy for that.” Anthony adjusted a little and lifted me into his arms, walking up the winding staircase to our bedroom without being out of breath in the least. He laid me down on our big king-size bed and continued to kiss me as he relieved himself of his shirt.

As the vast expanse of his chest was revealed one slip of a button through its hole at a time, I couldn’t help but run my hands over it. I’d always been fascinated by his chest, all those bulging muscles lightly covered with soft black hair, small peaked nipples poking out at my hands as insistently as other parts of him were poking into my hip. His hands were busily finding their way under my knit shirt, locating and disposing of my bra like an expert, then feasting his hands on my breasts, cupping them gently, and seeking those already plumped out nipples that tingled in expectation of his touch.

Warm, rough fingertips pinched and rolled my nipples confidently, making me groan and twist, pressing my breasts more firmly into his hands. Before I knew it, I was naked beneath him, and he settled himself between my legs. I was spread so wide to receive him that I could feel the rough fabric of his dress pants against my most private area.

Anthony’s mouth, evil grin and all, descended on my breasts as he asked, only somewhat tongue in cheek, “Did you behave today?”

I couldn’t think to answer him beyond a long, drawn-out “Yes” as my breathing became more and more labored. When he captured a stiffened nipple between his lips and teeth, I squealed suddenly, not knowing if he was going to nibble or suckle until those warm wet lips tugged that sensitive nub inside, trapping it against the roof of his mouth and flicking it mercilessly while his other hand gently pinched and rolled my other nipple.

He always knew exactly what to do to drive me absolutely crazy. Actually, all he had to do was be there and I ended up needing a new pair of panties.

Anthony shifted just a tad to his left, just enough that he could trail his hand down the center of my body as if he owned it to cup my bare privates with his palm, the slide of his middle finger between those soft lips, right to the sopping wet center of my pussy, already slick and waiting for his attentions. The pad of that finger began to torture me. There was no other word for it. He was so big that when he was on top of me, I could barely move. My free left hand and arm were entirely useless against him—trying to move him in any way was like trying to adjust the position of a brick wall.

That finger was going to drive me crazy. I was always simmering at a high level of desire around him, and it was almost embarrassing how easily he could bring me to pleasure.

“Please, Anthony, please!” I breathed, knowing that he liked to tease me sometimes and would stop in the middle of things and bring me down a notch or two, only to build those ever-present fires back up again, slowly and carefully stroking and stoking me, bringing me to a fever pitch where he would hold me for the longest, hardest moment of my life, then finally send me flying over that cliff as he joined my body with his.

For some reason, I started out of my near sleep fantasy at the exact moment he entered me, my body spasming with pleasure as if he were lying right next to me.





Chapter Five




Raychel

It had to be the quietest, most awkward dinner either of us had ever had. Early on, I had started to think that maybe this wasn’t the best of ideas. I was just so damned uncomfortable. I feared I looked like someone was peeling away my skin a strip at a time.

Just before we placed our orders with the extremely attentive waiter, Anthony leaned toward me and said in a playful tone, “I promise no one around here bites.”

Anthony watched me intently as I felt my face heat up, and I couldn’t help but bite my lip, my eyes scanning the menu to find the cheapest thing to order—not an easy task at all seeing as there were no prices listed.

His eyebrow rose, and his chin automatically tilted down a notch as he caught my eye. “This meal is on me. You are to order everything from soup to nuts, anything you want. And if you don’t, I will.”

He didn’t look like he was bluffing at all, and he’d already threatened to spank me once, and I knew they weren’t idle threats, either. Somehow, I doubted that he would hesitate one instant to take me over his knee. I now had to look at him a little differently than I had. He’d always been a take-charge guy, confident and dominant and more sure of himself than any ten men. But all of his overprotective possession toward me had been in line of a guardian or an extra father figure in my life. Not the way I had wanted it, and most certainly not what I wanted now.

Even with our lunches, where I got to drink him in for an hour or two at a time, I could feel the warmth and comfort of his undivided attention, but something had changed between us... since I’d called and was going to cancel out of our dinner, but he hadn’t let me. Things had somehow become a notch or two more intimate, just from that discussion, and now all of that intensity had settled squarely on me, and I didn’t know whether to revel in it or run and hide in the corner.

We had flirted. Only a little, and maybe even innocently. But we had most certainly flirted.

It seemed easier to give in to him, to a point. But I didn’t want him ordering for me. I was too picky of an eater for that. He would never be able to remember all the myriad things I refused to eat. The menu wasn’t huge, but I was surprised to see that there were several things that looked interesting. I didn’t need to see a price to know I could never have afforded to pay for my own meal. I was going to order an appetizer only, but when he raised his eyebrow at me in a ‘tone’ that required no actual voicing, I rethought it. I ended up with a prosciutto and melon appetizer, which seemed to surprise him, with a flat-iron steak cooked medium and a side of gnocchi with pesto cream sauce.

Anthony gave his own order as well as requested a bottle of wine that cost more than I made in a week and the waiter scurried away.

“There’s one thing that I have always wondered about you and I’ve never asked. Would you mind a somewhat personal question?” he asked.

I squirmed in my chair, refusing to meet his eyes, saying, “No,” in a long, drawn-out, extremely tentative manner.

“I’ve never seen you with anyone. You’ve never been serious with anyone that I know of. Why is that?”

“Have you met my father?” I tried to joke to divert a bit, but when Anthony kept his eyes locked with mine, I knew he wanted a real answer. I shrugged. “Well, my father was strict, so I didn’t have high school boyfriends. And though not everyone knew what he did for a living, I think most knew not to mess with him. I was sort of like a Russian plague. And then when he died... well, I guess I just became more of an introvert than I already was.”

Anthony nearly choked on a sip of his water. “A Russian plague? I highly doubt that. You are absolutely stunning. I’m sure boys were drooling over you. I’m sure men still do and you just don’t see it.”

I shook my head vehemently. “No. I’m pretty sure the Russian plague has stayed with me.”

He leaned forward and beamed the most seductive smile a man could, though I don’t believe that was his intent. Anthony had no idea just how handsome he was. “So have you never been with a man?”

I knew I was growing redder by the minute. “You weren’t kidding when you said you were going to ask a personal question.”

His eyes widened. “A virgin?”

I grimaced. “I really hate this conversation.”

He chuckled. “I’m sorry. Just in my line of business and especially running Black Secrets, I don’t see many of your kind.” He laughed louder than I had ever heard him. At least since my father had died. “It’s like I’m staring at an extinct animal right now. You should be on the endangered species list.”

I couldn’t help but giggle, but I was also getting even more flustered by the minute. “Russian plague, remember?”

“I’d be willing to catch that disease.” His smile quickly faded and he went back to being his serious self in a split second. “I mean, I’m sure many men wouldn’t mind catching the plague.”

I wished the floor would swallow me up. I couldn’t believe that somehow Anthony had now learned I was a damn virgin. I had never been so embarrassed. Anthony and I couldn’t be more different. He was older, experienced, rich, and powerful. I was young, poor, a virgin, and pathetic.

Our appetizers were set in front of us, but I had suddenly lost my appetite, despite how gorgeous the plate of fruit and ham looked.

And Anthony looked like I’d just slapped him across the face. His lips were pinched tight, brows drawn together, looking like a storm cloud. “I’m sorry. None of that was my business, and I can see I embarrassed you. I just wanted to know if there is anyone I should be keeping my eye on. If there was some man in your life or someone you are interested in.” He sat back in his chair, staring down at his clam chowder as if it were a bowl full of frogs. “I know your father was in the Bratva, and kept you protected and shielded from as much bad as he could. I also promised your father that I would protect you with my life. The life of crime would not come knocking on your door no matter what. Your father made sure of that before his death, and I am guaranteeing it myself. You’re safe. You’re also safe from me. So, it’s my job to make sure anyone in your life now or who comes into it passes my test, just as your father would have done.”

I cleared my throat, unable to believe we were having a conversation like this at dinner. We did not discuss my father in this way, or what he did ever. The word Bratva was rarely said. Even with my father, it was a topic rarely brought up. “I know I’m safe. And I know that my father had high expectations of you in regards to me. But you don’t have to live by them.”

“Yes, I do. I gave my word. My word is everything. I may be a fucking dick in many ways, but I do have a code that I live by. Your father knew this, and I will not dishonor his memory by going against what I promised. I hope he died knowing I would forever watch over you.”

“I’m sure he did,” I said softly. “I just wish he were here to do it himself.”

“I do too.” He took a deep breath and then sipped from his wine. “Regardless, I’m sorry. I was too nosey and had no business asking that question of you.”

I shrugged, wanting desperately to end the conversation. “I’m just not used to having someone care about me like you do. I feel like you watch my every move.”

“I do. I care about you very much, and yes, I will always watch over you whether you like it or not. You and Dasha were my family, and even if he hadn’t been murdered, my feelings for you would make me overprotective anyway,” he said, his expression darkening. “I don’t want that to scare you though.”

“Your feelings for me?” I asked without even thinking.

“Yes.” He paused and studied me in silence long enough that I had no choice but to fidget in my chair. “How much do you know about the mafia? About what your father was involved with? About me and my connections with it?” His skeptical look made it very clear that I couldn’t pull one over on him and fake that I knew all about it.

“Nothing. My father forbade me to be involved in any way. That also meant that I couldn’t ask questions. I eavesdropped enough growing up that I got the idea... but I know very little. As for you, I knew you worked with him and the Russian mob because I overheard my father and you speaking about it on occasion at our dinners.” I took a long swallow of my water to try to wash away the large lump forming in the back of my throat. “But don’t feel you have to defend your life and job. I’m not judging at all.”

“Which is why both your father and I felt you were safe. I still will make sure of it, but your father shielded you from knowing too much and his colleagues and even his enemies are aware that when it comes to knowledge, you are useless in that regard. He wanted to make sure that you would be forgotten before he died. I believe you have been and no one would ever use you for retribution for anything. Especially now that your father has passed.” He cleared his throat and looked uncomfortable. “But if my enemies got wind that you were close to me, then... but I would never allow that to happen.”

My eyes darted away from his.

But Anthony was too eagle-eyed to miss something like that. “I’m your guardian whether you like it or not. Nervous, afraid, or whatever you feel, my job is to protect you always.” He paused and studied me for several awkward seconds before mercifully saying, “Enough of this dark talk. Eat your appetizer before it gets”—he smiled and gave the sexiest little wink to lighten the mood—“before it gets cold. Although you ordered melon so maybe that’s fine. Hell if I know.”

I couldn’t help but giggle again, which wasn’t something I did freely, but with Anthony, I couldn’t help but feel happy... and protected.

Safe.

Secure.

Watched over.

He was my guardian in so many ways. I hadn’t realized that fact, but he was.

And I liked it.

“And why, pray tell, don’t you have a winter coat?” he asked, changing the subject completely. “I noticed you weren’t wearing one when we walked into the restaurant.”

I stopped with a ball of melon on its way to my mouth. “How would you know whether or not I have a coat?”

“I remember from the last storm. And I distinctly remember telling you to get a coat then.” He wiped his very sensual mouth with his white linen napkin. “Did you?”

I had to think about my answer for a moment, and then quickly decided to avoid giving a direct answer. “I think I’ll take the fifth.” Despite the fact that our discussion had me sitting on pins and needles, and seconds ago I would have sworn I couldn’t eat a thing, the sweet, salty smell called to me and I began to delicately devour the bounty before me.

“No, no, no. The fifth isn’t available to you.”

“Says who?” The statement was firm and strong, as if I were trying to reinforce it to myself as well as him. I didn’t want to completely cave to Anthony under any circumstances, fantasy life be damned.

He gave me a look that I was sure was ‘the look.’ “It’s my duty to look over your well-being now.”

I snorted. “You have no such duty to me.”

“I need to do a better job of protecting you. Not just your safety within the dark underworld, which I make damn sure of, but also the small mundane things. Like... where the fuck is your coat?”

My stomach flipped at his words, and a sudden urge to feel his arms around me almost knocked me out of my chair. It took all my might to barely squeak out, “I can take care of myself.”

Our entrees had arrived and were presented to us with a flourish. Once we were alone again, Anthony leaned toward me, grabbed my hand, and played his trump card. “It’s what Dasha would have wanted. You know that as well as I do. He wouldn’t want me to leave you alone. He one hundred percent would want me to be your guardian.”

How could I ever hope to argue with that? I cut into a steak that practically fell apart when I threatened it with the knife and fork. It literally melted in my mouth, and a small groan escaped me as I closed my eyes and just enjoyed the sensation for a moment. It had been a long time since I’d had a meal like this.

When I opened my eyes, Anthony was staring right at me, as if I were dessert.

“I know Father made you promise... and you have lived up to that promise in all ways. But he wouldn’t expect you to burden yourself with me forever. You said yourself that the Russians and all he dealt with have no interest in me.”

I was groping for something—anything to say to distract him. Those eyes were robbing me of what few shreds I had left of flimsy protection around my fragile heart. He could see into my soul, I was sure, see all of the things I had dreamt of doing with him. I was certain he could discern those innermost secrets he should never know.

“Because Dasha was like a brother to me. You and your father were like family. Are like family. And since you are the only one who’s still alive, you get all of me.” He smiled warmly, which caused tingles to attack my pussy. “It’s my manly duty... to watch over you.”

I took a swig of my water, hoping it would cool me down from the inside out, but no such luck. The more we talked, the more I felt the need to fidget. His effects on me were tangible. I was still breathing much more heavily than I usually did, although I was consciously trying to hide it. My skin was hot and tight all over, not considering the blushes he caused with nearly every sentence. My fingers were frozen with nerves, yet that nether area between my legs surged and throbbed with excess heat, and I could feel myself dripping into my panties.

He was too close. He was too damned close, in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, I was trying desperately not to let any of it show. If he even suspected... I would never recover.

So I cut and took another bite of my steak, but I had lost the enjoyment of it, chewing robotically and swallowing so hard it might as well have been a clump of dryer lint. “And you think that Father meant you should oversee my wardrobe?”

He was eating his meal as if I weren’t just about to explode two feet away from him. “I most certainly do. I have been lax in my duties, and I’m going to rectify that situation as soon as possible.” Anthony leaned forward, looking me directly in the eye. “I want you to go out and buy yourself a winter coat, and I want to see it when we get together the next time, or you will not like the consequences. I promise you.”

“Consequences?” I giggled uncomfortably. “What? Are you going to spank me if I don’t?”

“Yes,” he said without a moment’s hesitation.

“Ha, ha, very funny.” I was trying to make light of the situation even though the look on his face made it very clear he wasn’t joking, and the ache deep within my pussy revealed that I wasn’t one hundred percent opposed to the idea.

“I’m a man of my word, Raychel. So I advise you to get a coat, or you won’t be sitting comfortably for quite some time.”

“Is this how you speak to the women who work for you at Black Secrets, Mr. Boss Man?”

“This is how I talk to you. Don’t push me. Trust me on that.”

My eyes widened so far, my eyes started to tear. How the hell was I going to buy a damn coat? I was barely making my rent, paying my bills, buying groceries and painting supplies. Sometimes groceries took a decided back seat to everything else. A new coat was out of the question. I could go to Goodwill, I supposed, but I didn’t really want to. Despite the fact that I was occasionally lucky enough to find donated clothing that had the price tags still on them, like the blouse and skirt combo I’d worn last month, I wasn’t all that fond of wearing other people’s clothes due to an underlying germ phobia I had. And it wasn’t like I really needed a coat for most of the days living in New Orleans. Just because there was a cold snap didn’t mean I needed to go into debt. But the bigger question... was he serious? Would he actually spank me if I didn’t get a damn coat?

“And I want us to get together more often than once a month, too. I don’t have much of a social life outside of Black Secrets, and I don’t imagine you do, either, no offense. It wouldn’t hurt either of us to get out more often and go do things. We can see movies, go out to dinner, go bowling, or I don’t know. Whatever we want.”

“Bowling?” I asked with a smirk. Anthony didn’t seem like a bowling type of guy.

He shrugged with a smile. “Maybe we need to do something normal. Like normal people.”

“Normal? I’m the daughter of a Russian mobster and you run a rich man’s nightclub. I would say we are far from normal.”

“Well... maybe it’s time we try it on for size.”

I was wondering how I was going to pay for all of this, but I didn’t say anything, concentrating instead on my meal.

“I don’t want to lose contact with you, Raychel. I don’t want to push you too hard or piss you off—although I can’t remember a time when I have ever seen you angry. But I realize that I want to take care of you. That it feels good to have someone to look after. Your father was a tough ass, but I loved him. You are more fragile than he was, but with the familiar stubborn streak that curses your family.”

He reached over and took my palm in his. I instantly tried to grab my hand back, but he refused to let me go, holding gently but firmly, not allowing me to wiggle my way out of his careful grasp.

I was practically in a panic. I did not want him touching me. The man was sharp as a tack, and he was sure to discover my immediate response to him if he were able to lay hands on me any time he wanted. So I concentrated all of my effort—every ounce of my being—on retrieving that hand, but got absolutely nowhere. He wasn’t hurting me at all, he was just holding onto my hand with calm determination.

I had been concentrating so hard that I hadn’t looked at him, but when my eyes flitted up to his, I stopped cold. His eyebrow was up again, chin down, his full, sensual lips in a tight line across his face.

“That’s better. You act like I’m going to hack it off or something.” He sighed in exasperation, squeezing my fingers tightly twice, then letting go. “I just wanted to emphasize what I’m saying. I’m not trying to be a hard-assed prick. I care. I always have. I know you’re not used to that, but you should be. I’m a part of your family. I’m the closest part of your family, physically and emotionally, unless I miss my mark.”

He hadn’t, of course, he was dead on, but I was as unlikely to admit that to him as I was to cop to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. The rest of the family still lived in Russia or had been so disconnected with my father that I had never met them.

Anthony was the closest family member to me, despite the fact that I seemed to try to resist that thought.

An Uncle Anthony.

An Uncle Anthony I wanted to have sex with.

It was an entirely sobering thought.

“So,” Anthony continued on as if I hadn’t been dumbstruck at what he’d been saying, “when should we get together next week?”

I had to suppress a snort. It wasn’t as if my social calendar was so terribly full that I wasn’t able to fit him in between my couture fittings and my flower arranging classes... It was more likely that I wasn’t going to be able to afford to see him more often. I was barely covering the lunches we had, and no way was I going to allow him to pay for everything or ask for a cent. My pride was far too strong for that. For some reason it made me feel I was letting down the memory of my father by coming across as anything but financially sound.

But I also didn’t want to challenge him, not here, not now. I imagined he’d notice my absence when the time came. I could only hope that decorum would keep him from doing anything drastic—like disciplining me—despite his threats.

Taking self-delusion to its highest level, I sat back in my chair, mentally trying to finagle my barely there finances so that I might actually be able to afford to see him next week... depending on what bills I could put off paying, and how little I ate during the week. “I don’t know. You have more of a life than I do. You tell me.”

We decided to meet and go to a movie next Saturday afternoon. Anthony had wanted it to be an evening show, but I pushed for a matinee, which was less expensive.

The rest of dinner was much less intense. Anthony got me talking about television shows and relatively neutral subjects. I seemed to relax a lot, until he glared at me when I put the dessert menu down and announced I didn’t want to have anything.

“Pick something. We’ll split it,” he fairly growled. “You look like you need a good solid meal and could stand to put a few pounds on. I’ve noticed that you have lost quite a bit of weight since Dasha died. Which I understand is a normal part of the grieving process, but you are literally skin and bones.”

Seeing that he wasn’t going to relent on this, I gave a little angry sigh then reached for the menu again. We settled on a brownie sundae that was literally sinful—a slightly underdone brownie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and caramel sauce, as well as three big swirly spirals of whipped cream.

The best meal of my life... and not just because of the food.





Chapter Six




Anthony

She groaned again when tasting her first mouthful of the confection, and I found myself wondering starkly if she sounded like that in bed. All of a sudden, I was rock hard, and that wasn’t a condition I was used to lately. In fact, I didn’t think I’d had an erection since Dasha had died. It just wasn’t something I thought about. I was grieving... which meant I didn’t give a fuck about sex.

But Raychel—I’d never considered Raychel in a sexual manner while Dasha was alive, but apparently my body had. She was the only woman to inspire this response in me in a long time, and it made me want to take another look at her. And watching her eat this dessert was just about going to kill me, I could tell.

She was unselfconsciously sexy. I knew that Raychel wasn’t trying to entice me. Exactly the opposite. She wanted to melt into the woodwork with pretty much anyone, especially me, apparently. But she was taking a spoonful of that decadent dessert and eating it, then pulling the spoon out very, very slowly, with her eyes closed, her face the very picture of bliss.

I wanted to see her like that, but not in relation to food. I was getting more and more uncomfortable by the second, having to shift in the chair and try to adjust myself as discreetly as possible. I was afraid that when I had to stand up when we left, the evidence of my desires was going to be in plain view.

I barely had a bite of the brownie. I was spending all my time watching her, although I tried not to let her see it, knowing she would stop as soon as she realized that my eyes were on her.

All good things came to an end, though. Raychel put her spoon down in the bowl and looked up at me sheepishly. “I’m so sorry! I ate almost the whole thing! It just tasted so good—”

“No problem at all. I don’t need it anyway, and I much preferred watching you enjoy it so much.”

She blushed like she always did, but she seemed happy and content for the first time this whole evening, and I found myself wanting to make her feel that way again.

We each had a cup of coffee, which was just about the amount of time I needed to recover some control over myself. I realized, in my car on the way back to her place, that I didn’t want to let her go. But when I suggested that I come up to her apartment, she got that wary look in her eyes again, and practically backed out of the car and away from me.

“I’m fine. I can let myself in. No need for you to get out of the warm car,” she said as she quickly shut the door and made her way to the rundown apartment building.

“Hold on!” I called as I killed the engine of my car and bolted after her. “You are stripping me of my gentlemanly duty of walking a lady to the door.”

I caught up with her at the top of the stairs, and without thinking and acting on impulse alone, followed an age-old instinct, I took her into my arms and bent her over my arm, making her need to reach up to cup my neck to maintain her balance. Those small, soft fingers landed on my sensitive nape as I settled my mouth down onto hers gently.

Raychel’s mouth was open from the shock of it, and I took advantage of that fact, slipping my tongue past her lips to plunder beyond. She still tasted of caramel and chocolate, and I wanted more. I wanted all of her, and the need that washed over me was so great, I wasn’t at all sure I could control it. It flooded through me like an avalanche, leaving me aching for her, for every inch of her. Always, before, there had been Dasha and the fact that she was practically a child to halt my voracious desires. I had control back then.

Now I was out of control.

Now I was a fucking bastard—hungry for more.

Now I was beginning to see there was Raychel—to both spark and quench my appetite.

And I wanted her.

And I would have her.

“Anthony...” she murmured against my lips, but didn’t pull away.

I continued to dance my tongue with hers, feeling sensations course through my body that had been forbidden to feel. So wrong. So fucking wrong.

For the first time since Dasha’s death, I felt alive again. Truly alive. My heart beat harder with every second of the kiss. It was almost as if Raychel was breathing life into my soul once again.

“Anthony,” she breathed, this time putting her hand against my chest and softly pushing me away. “This is wrong. We can’t.”

Shaking my head, I continued the kiss. I didn’t want to stop and face the harsh reality of our situation, but she continued to press away. Reluctantly, I pulled back to stare into her startled, wide eyes. “Tell me it doesn’t feel right.”

“It does,” she whispered. “But, we can’t... what would my father say? What would everyone think?”

I positioned her body so I could embrace her fully against my chest and stroked the back of her head, not sure I could find the right words to say. “This is our business. No one else’s.”

She snuggled her face against my chest, clearly enjoying the close proximity as much as me. “This isn’t right.”

“Fuck that,” I growled.

“Our age. I’m so much younger and—”

“Who gives a fuck?” My cock was talking. Not my mind.

She clung to my shirt with her small fists. “I don’t know. It’s just wrong. We aren’t supposed to do this.”

A small bubble of rage attacked my core at the unfairness of my fate. “Says who? Who gets to make the rules in our life? Is there some rulebook I’m not aware of? This is between you and me and us alone.” I pulled her off my chest so I could stare directly in her eyes. “I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how to make this right. But I know I feel something, and I know you feel something too. What that is? I don’t know.” I kissed her softly on her lips before adding, “All I ask is that we walk toward what could be between you and me instead of pushing away. Let’s at least be open to the possibility. Okay?”

Tears welled in her eyes and her arms clung tighter around me. “Yes. I would like that.” A single tear dripped down her cheek. “Does that make me an awful person because I want that?”

“No, Raychel.” I hugged her so tight I worried I may actually break her fragile frame. “You are not an awful person.”

I was.

I was the fucking bastard taking advantage of my dead best friend’s daughter.

Sins. Dirty fucked-up sins.

But my sins. Mine.

I took a deep breath to calm my raging hard-on. “We’ll take this very slow. So slow that we don’t have to search for the answers. They will just find us.”

She nodded in agreement. “So now what?”

I kissed her softly, but longer this time, and then I begrudgingly pulled away. “We go on another date to the movies. One date, one step at a time.” I kissed her one more time and wiped at the tears in her eyes. “Goodnight, Raychel.”

“Goodnight, Anthony.”

Sorry, Dasha. So fucking sorry.





Chapter Seven




Raychel

We had met for the movie just as Anthony had wanted. He’d stopped and picked me up, then we’d gone to the theater. But in the parking lot, he’d turned off the engine, and swiveled in his seat to look me straight in the eye. “You didn’t buy the coat, did you?”

I looked down, suddenly finding the third button on his cotton shirt—that most likely cost more than my monthly mortgage—to be infinitely fascinating. “How did you know?”

Anthony snorted. “You’re not wearing it.”

I guffawed. “Even if I’d bought it, I could have chosen not to wear it.”

“Not if you realized you were going to be spanked for not wearing it when it’s cold.”

Oh, my God. Did he just say spanked again? And did my pussy just throb because of it?

“Is there a good reason you didn’t buy a coat?” he asked firmly.

This was my out. I could just explain that buying a coat didn’t fit in my monthly budget, but my pride got in the way. I had no choice but to lie. “I just didn’t feel like it,” I said as I jutted out my chin. Lying to Anthony didn’t feel good, but at least I still had my pride and wouldn’t come off as some nearly homeless lady.

“Well, then...” He paused for a long moment. “I believe a spanking is in store.”

“You are not going to spank me, Anthony LaSalla.” I said the word ‘spank’ aloud for the first time, after having said it in my fantasies for longer than I could remember. It came out firm and strong, just the way I had intended.

He didn’t say a thing. Nothing.

I didn’t take that as a good sign. Instead, he got out of the car and came around to my door, since I had made no move to get out at all. He opened the door and stuck his hand in at me. “C’mon. Do you think I’m going to spank you in the theater?” he asked as a young couple was walking by. They turned and laughed, then walked toward the cinema.

If only to shut him up, I got out, refusing to touch the proffered hand. “Will you please keep your voice down,” I hissed.

Anthony merely smiled, reaching for and capturing my hand to tuck it into his elbow and escort me into the movies. I was quite efficiently trapped. I desperately wanted to continue our conversation and strengthen my objections—my refusal to let him discipline me in any way whatsoever. But I did not want to get into that kind of a discussion in the middle of a public theater. So, after he insisted on buying the tickets, I grudgingly ate the extra-large popcorn he’d gotten and dutifully gnawed on the hard Milk Duds—which, in truth, were my favorite movie treats—all while being transported into a land of elves and fairies and magic spells that completely absorbed the both of us, even though it was an extraordinarily long movie.

When it was done, however, and we were back in his car, I deliberately picked up the conversational thread. “So. No, I didn’t get a coat. But you are not going to spank me for not having done so.”

Shit. Why did I do that? Maybe he had forgotten about it. Maybe he had been joking and now I was making a bigger deal of the entire situation. Maybe he would be able to read in my eyes that deep down I wanted it again.

Wait... did I want it again?

I peered closely at his face, but Anthony merely continued to stare straight ahead as he drove, smiling slightly.

I paused for a moment, but he apparently wasn’t going to say a thing.

“Anthony?”

“I have to admit that I like the sound of my name on your lips.”

“Anthony...”

“Yes?” he asked, as innocently as was possible for him.

It was then that I noticed that he wasn’t taking me home to my apartment. He was headed to his own place.

“Take me home, Anthony.” A flat, hard statement that left no room for doubt.

“Okay. I’ll spank you there,” he agreed all too readily, putting on his blinker to change directions.

“No! No—not there!” I was getting so flustered that he might see my dilapidated living conditions that I started to forget the original threat. “Wait! You’re not going to spank me at either place!”

He stopped at a red light, considering me for a moment. “Well, you seem to be very vehement about not wanting me to see your apartment. I’ll have to investigate why at a later date.”

That announcement sent a chill down my spine.

“But right now, I am going to spank you, and I think it should be at my house. I’m a man of my word, Raychel. I told you what I would do if you didn’t buy a coat. I’m not about to become a liar now.”

“Are you crazy? You can’t spank me! I’m a grown woman!”

Anthony’s response was annoyingly curt. “And I’m in charge of you.”

“What? You are not!”

He smiled and chuckled. “I’m your guardian now. That means that ass of yours is mine to do with as I please.”

“Anthony! You can’t be serious.”

He glanced over at me with a wicked gleam in his eye. “My ass to do with as I please,” he repeated.

He didn’t say anything more, even though my pleas became more and more fervent. When he drove through the large gate and finally pulled into his driveway, he stopped and turned to me. “I care about you, and I can see that you’re not taking care of yourself the way you should. It’s been relatively balmy around here lately. But we’ve had some snaps of cold weather too. I can’t bear the thought of you walking around shivering in that kind of weather. I want you to have a winter coat. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. And your stubborn ass is about to pay the price. You know I’m a man not to mess with, and though I have a gentle heart for you, I still expect an order to be followed. Especially an order for your well-being.”

“I wasn’t being stubborn... I...”

“What then? You just said you didn’t feel like it. Well... after I’m done with you, you will feel something far worse.”

Anthony reached out and tugged gently on an errant lock of my hair. “And, when I ask you to do something, I expect to be obeyed. You’re going to learn that very, very quickly.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to confess, hoping that would help me get out of a spanking. Pride be damned—I didn’t want anything to do with being spanked by this man. He was too darned big, and too determined by far. If I had to cry poverty, I would. Now that my little fantasy was actually becoming a reality, it didn’t sound so sexy anymore.

But while I was pondering what to do, he got out of the car, came around to my side, and opened the door, putting his hand out to me much more imperiously than he ever had. I huddled back in the car as far away from him as I could. “I am not going to get out of this car.”

“You would prefer that I reach in there and haul you out over my shoulder, in bright daylight? You know my neighbors could be looking out their windows. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind getting a show. And can you imagine how fast the news that Raychel Polov got her butt blistered by Anthony LaSalla will spread?”

It wasn’t the first time I’d cursed living in a tight-knit community. The dark underworld of this town hung together. My father had introduced me into this world whether I liked it or not, and the last thing I wanted was there to be talk about Dasha’s daughter being spanked by Anthony LaSalla.

But I knew that if I found myself in that house, I’d end up getting spanked. He didn’t look like he was going to back down in any way, shape, or form, and knowing Anthony for as long as I had, I knew he wouldn’t budge an inch.

“I’m not going to wait forever, young lady.” His voice was as calm and patient as if he were telling me he was going to go out for a stroll.

Finally, as slowly as I dared, I scooted out of the car. Anthony took my arm and escorted me into his house.

It had been a while since I had been to his home. I could remember the first time Father had shown it to me. I had been positively glowing. It was a white house with a round portico in the front. In the olden days, they used to call it a center hall colonial, because the front door opened into a center hall, a foyer, with a formal parlor along one whole side of the house, on the right, and an informal parlor—that Anthony used as a study—and dining room along the left side of the house, with the kitchen and an added bathroom along the back. The beautiful, winding mahogany staircase in the hall led to the bedrooms and another two bathrooms upstairs.

Both my father and I had had an appreciation for big old houses, instilled early in us by our Russian heritage and the love for architecture. New Orleans most certainly had its share of houses that were beyond awe-inspiring, and Anthony owned one of them.

I had never imagined entering this house in such a state, with a spanking hanging over my head—one that was coming from Anthony himself, no less! He hadn’t changed the house or the furnishings a bit since the last time I’d gotten spanked there.

Anthony saw my face and grimaced. “Are you thinking about the impending doom of your situation? Or something else? Your father?” he asked softly, a sudden sadness settling on his face.

I could only nod solemnly.

“It’s okay for us to think about him, to talk about him,” he softly said as he wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “He can’t be our constant elephant in the room.”

“I feel guilty.” I was fighting back tears.

“He was the last person in the world who judged. He would make damn sure my head was in the right spot rather than my cock, and he would oversee us in every way... but he wouldn’t begrudge this. Not if it’s what we wanted.”

I nodded again. “You’re right. He loved you and would love knowing you were stepping in as my guardian,” I said with a side eye. “I just wonder if you and I are both lying to ourselves to make this situation right.”

Anthony gave me a little squeeze, and softly kissed me on the forehead. “There’s no easy solution, no answer. All we can do is move ahead at a pace that feels right and see if this is what we both want. What we both need. Though I feel we both know that answer already.”

I looked up into his eyes and matched his warm smile. “What do you think Father would say right now?”

He chuckled. “He’d feel really bad for you since he knows what’s in store for your poor butt.” He released a belly laugh, which was just what was needed to break the morose mood that had been set.

I shoved him playfully and feigned annoyance. “Anthony LaSalla!”

He took a few steps toward the double doors to his study, then turned and crooked his finger at me. “Come here, Raychel. And don’t even think of bolting back out that door, because if I have to chase you, it’s going to be that much worse.”

I hadn’t been thinking that, but his comment made me wish I had. I had been too deep in my memories to remember that the health and welfare of my ass was on the line here. And there he was, standing there crooking his finger at me as if he were going to give me a gift or something when I joined him in his study.

My hands went automatically to my bottom while he stared at me, trying to protect what could not be protected, at least not from him, apparently. I walked past him and into the study that way, standing nervously in front of his desk while he drew the curtains closed on the big bow and side windows.





Chapter Eight




Anthony

I realized that this needed to be done quickly. If I gave her too much time to think about it, she’d turn tail and run, and I didn’t want to have to be chasing her halfway down the street. So I took one of the straight-backed chairs—one of the leftovers from my dining set—and put it in the middle of the cream-colored Persian rug. Since there was only me except when I entertained, I didn’t need all of the eight chairs that had come with the antique carved oak table, so some of them had ended up in the foyer, a couple in my study, and one in the bedroom. Their dual purpose had always made me smile secretly when I looked at them scattered around the house.

I tugged on Raychel’s arm, and she resisted, though not as much as I’d expected. She oofed a little when I laid her over my lap, and that thing that only seemed to happen with her now had happened again, and there was no way she was going to mistake what was poking boldly into her belly. I decided to ignore it—as much as was possible. I knew that if I mentioned how hard my cock was and how badly I wanted to fuck her, she would dissolve right into the floor. It was best to just concentrate on the matter at hand.

It had been a long while since I’d had a beautiful lady over my lap. I had almost forgotten the feeling, but I couldn’t take the time to luxuriate in it either. She needed to learn who was boss, and I intended to get the message home as quickly and efficiently as possible. One thing I knew was important in a future relationship with Raychel, was to always follow through with the threat of discipline. Consistency was of utmost importance, or the whole respect issue for me as someone she could count on and rely on became wishy-washy.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t at all sure I should do it, I tugged down her jeans and panties all at once, before she really had a chance to work herself into a lather. There would be time for that later, I was sure. But for the moment, I had caught her completely off guard, and I was going to use that to my advantage.

Her round white globes on full display would have made my knees collapse had I not already been sitting down. I couldn’t fight the urge to glance at the V between her silky thighs just begging my hand to dip in and explore. I wasn’t sure why, but I was pretty positive that if I dipped my finger into her pussy, it would be coated in her juices of arousal instantly. Her breathing revealed much more than just fear of the upcoming punishment.

*

Raychel

I was absolutely mortified. I had begun to reconcile myself with the idea that he might spank me. That I’d have to lie over his lap and feel his hand connecting with my bare ass, but my mind had sterilized it nicely for me, so that I didn’t have to deal with the more intimate, or painful, aspects of being put in that position.

But here I was, and it was intimate enough when we were both fully clothed. Then he reached aro