Shadow Reaper: Chapter 18

“I wondered how the hell they were able to know where we all were,” Taviano said. “Which shop Emme was in. Where Nicoletta was. Even Phillip’s mistress. How did our enemies keep tabs on us without our knowledge?”

Stefano’s apartment was once again the gathering place for all of Ricco’s siblings. The penthouse smelled delicious. Francesca and Taviano had whipped up a dinner after a brutal training session in Stefano’s very large training hall. It was the first time Mariko had ever trained with them, yet they didn’t go light on her. She was happy they respected her enough after watching her work out to treat her as a real opponent. She didn’t do that badly against them, either.

Only Stefano, Ricco and Taviano could spar with her, and Stefano watched over Ricco like a hawk. Emmanuelle was still wearing the immobilizer and sling to keep from moving her shoulder. Vittorio was out of the hospital. He watched the sparring matches but was still forbidden to fight one of his brothers or sister. He worked out a little on the mat, but mostly it was stretching. Giovanni’s femur had been broken and needed extensive surgery. He had rods and pins in his leg. It was kept immobile by a long brace. Recovery was a minimum of four months, but more likely six. It was imperative that all metal be removed if he was going to ride again. He was there, pale and hurting, but he didn’t complain.

“Did you figure it out?” Stefano asked as he reached for the basket of warm sourdough bread smothered in butter and garlic salt. “And what’s with their fixation on Nicoletta? Have you figured that out?”

Giovanni reached for the pasta, couldn’t quite make it, so Mariko added the pasta to his plate. She added two pieces of the garlic bread and a very large helping of salad before serving herself.

“Thanks, mia sorellina. I appreciate you feeding me.” He glared at his brothers.

Vittorio shrugged. “I’m kind of liking you not being able to reach the table properly, Gee. More food for me and I don’t even have to work at it. He’s not going to starve without a few meals, Mariko.”

“Vittorio,” Francesca protested. “That’s so mean.”

“He’s kicking me while I’m down,” Giovanni pointed out, clearly looking for sympathy and an ally from Francesca.

“Vittorio.” Francesca sent him a stern look. The Ferraros burst out laughing. Mariko had to smile as well. Francesca didn’t look nearly as stern as she tried. She looked sweet, much like Lucia. She could see why the family regarded her as their center with Stefano and were protective over her. She felt a little protective toward her as well.

Stefano passed his plate to his wife and she put a healthy helping of pasta on it. “Taviano. What did you find?”

“Cameras. All over the village. At Eloisa’s house. In the hotel lobby and positioned across the street recording all entrances. Once I realized we virtually had our own reality show, I checked everyone’s homes. Cameras were positioned across the streets, and sometimes in the garages.” He took a bite of the pasta, chewed, swallowed and continued. “The cameras were installed some time ago. Long enough that there’s signs of rust on the mounting bolts. Whoever he is, he’s damn good with surveillance. Knows what he’s doing.” He took another bite of pasta and chewed, then waved his fork at them. “I’d guess whoever put those cameras up also fucked up Ricco’s car.”

Mariko stole a quick glance at Ricco. He was sitting close to her, close enough that their thighs were touching. He did that a lot the last couple of days. They’d returned from Japan and he’d stayed close to her, very protective. She had nightmares and he was always there, holding her close, telling her everything was going to be all right and she wasn’t alone.

She was terrified she was going to lose Ryuu. He was all the family she had left. It had hurt to discover just how much Osamu hated her. Dai knew, he knew exactly how Osamu had treated her, and he hadn’t stepped in. Mariko had been a child. She’d been three years old when her family had been massacred. Now . . . She fought back panic. She couldn’t lose Ryuu.

Ricco shifted in his chair, his palm curling around the nape of her neck. She blinked, looked around and discovered the entire family was watching her. All of them. Compassion on their faces.

“We’re with you, Mariko,” Emmanuelle said. “All the way. We’re with you. You’re Ricco’s, but you’re ours as well.”

She flashed a smile, but it hurt even to curve her mouth when she wanted desperately to cry. They had one another. They always had. No matter how bad it got for them, they had a circle of absolute love and loyalty. She’d never even known it. It was a struggle to believe it was real, and they were extending that love of family to her. She wasn’t certain she could make herself believe she was worthy of it when she’d been told so often she wasn’t.

Ricco’s finger slid down her nape, steadying her. Connecting her. She didn’t know why it worked, but it did. The moment she felt that small caress, she felt strong again. Complete. Not because she was with him but because he had somehow managed, through his rope art, to empower her as a woman and a human being. He was offering her his life. More than once he’d made himself vulnerable to her. She had to hold that to her. Remind herself every time she felt uncertain that Ricco felt she was worthy. His family felt that way. She had to come to that realization, and Shibari had started her along that path.

“I try not to think about Ryuu and what he must be going through. Osamu had him so conflicted, he probably thinks I’m not looking for him.”

“Everyone is looking,” Stefano said gently. “The International Council and every rider we have. We’re all trying to pick up the trail.”

Yet no one had. That was what was so disturbing. She forked pasta and put it in her mouth, although it tasted like cardboard to her. The shock of seeing Dai shoot his wife and then knowing he killed himself . . .

“We didn’t actually see Dai’s body,” she said, turning her head to look at Ricco. “What if he didn’t kill himself and just wanted us to think he had. He’s smart. He could be behind this.”

Ricco’s fingers tightened around her neck. He shook his head. “The police came and found them. The bodies were taken to the morgue and members of the Japanese council as well as the International Council viewed them. They died when we were present.”

Emmanuelle frowned. “What does that mean? They suspected you of killing them?”

Stefano held up his hand when his siblings protested loudly. Mariko’s heart thudded wildly. She could very well get the entire Ferraro family in trouble with the council.

“Farfallina mia.” Ricco leaned into her, his lips brushing her ear. “They were always after me. You were sucked into my mess. Just the fact that Taviano could tell the cameras had been up for a long while means they were planning this for a good amount of time.”

“Either I’m losing my poker face, or you can read my mind,” she objected.

“You never actually had a poker face,” Ricco said, “but that blow to my head gave me psychic ability. I can read your mind.”

“What exactly is it saying right this minute?” she asked, trying not to laugh. He could always make her laugh, even in the worst of circumstances.

“Even I can read that message,” Giovanni said. “He’d better eat the pasta if he wants to keep what’s left of his head.”

“That would be correct,” she agreed.

The siblings erupted in another round of laughter. This time, she joined them, feeling a part of them. They had a way of wrapping one another up, just like Ricco’s ropes, snug, laying the line perfectly to keep one safe.

“Cameras can be traced,” Vittorio pointed out when they all sobered. “Pass the garlic bread, please, Giovanni. Stop eating it all. You’re going to get fat sitting on your ass and eating Francesca’s fine cooking.”

“Vittorio.” Francesca tried another severe look.

“I’m helping him. Good advice, you know. He can’t work out for a while, which means watching the calories. Garlic bread”–he nabbed three pieces–“is high in calories.”

“You’re not exactly working out right now.” Giovanni managed to snag one of the pieces of bread off his brother’s plate. “If you call that stretching crap work, I’m going to call you a girl.”

Emmanuelle’s head shot up. She scowled at her brother. “What does that mean? I’m a girl. Are you saying I’m not badass because I’m female?”

Vittorio grinned at his brother. Giovanni flipped him off and then smiled lovingly at his sister. “No one would dare say you’re not a badass, bella.”

“Hmm,” Taviano mused. “I do believe the prince, Val Saldi, might have something to say about that. He was sure hovering over her, acting like she didn’t know how to shoot a gun and he’d have to teach her.”

Emmanuelle’s face flushed and she opened her mouth to retaliate, glaring at her brothers as they all burst out laughing.

“Taviano.” Francesca used a warning voice before Emmanuelle could say a word. “If you want to keep eating, you are going to get off that subject right this minute and leave Emme alone. She has enough to contend with without you constantly teasing her about Val Saldi. She can’t help who crushes on her.”

“It isn’t like that,” Emmanuelle muttered. “He can’t say a nice word.”

“Maybe not,” Stefano said, “but, obnoxious or not, son of our enemy, he saved your ass when it was needed and for that, I’ll tolerate him.”

“We’re all here,” Ricco said, looking around. “Who’s on Nicoletta? I swear that girl is going to take off if you don’t talk to her, Stefano. She’s worried about Lucia and Amo, and with three attacks with both present, I’d say she has reason to worry.”

“Enrica pulled guard duty tonight,” Vittorio said. “What’s the word on Tomas and Cosimo? I called yesterday and Cosimo was back home and already doing his PT. Tomas wasn’t given the go-ahead yet.”

Stefano sighed. “Like Giovanni, they’re both acting like they can jump right back to work. I told Emilio absolutely not until the doctors clear them and they’ve had several months of training. I told them to go to counselors as well.” He flashed a grin at his brothers. “That was Francesca’s suggestion, and a good one.”

Immediately, all smiles were gone and the brothers nodded their heads, looking solemn. Francesca looked around the table and then to Mariko. “What? They almost died. They want to be bodyguards again and they should at least have someone to talk to about it. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?” Before Mariko could answer she turned to Stefano.

Instantly he reached for her hand. “We’re teasing you, baby. Tomas and Cosimo are throwbacks to the caveman days. Asking them to go to counseling is worse than anything you can imagine, but you’re absolutely right, and I told them they had to go. Tomas is rebelling. Cosimo agreed to make an appointment with the counselor I suggested. She’s going to be renting the small studio over Biagi’s and using the office next to it. She’s French. Young. Her name is Oceane Brisbois, moving in next month. Our one and only counselor is retiring. That should give Cosimo and Tomas time to come to terms with the idea. She was thoroughly investigated before we allowed her in.”

“Let’s get back to Nicoletta,” Ricco said. “She’s fierce in a fight. I know we can’t teach her to ride shadows, but she should be taught to defend herself. We could have her train with both hand to hand and weapons. I think she’d be more inclined to stick around if she was training. She’d feel more in control and able to defend Lucia and Amo.”

“I totally agree,” Vittorio said. “She’s a little hellcat and needs something to channel all that aggression. Maybe eating more pasta.” He scooped more onto his plate.

“You’re going to turn into pasta if you keep eating like that,” Giovanni pointed out. “I agree as well. Train that girl, but then we’ll have to read about her doing in every high school boy making a pass at her.”

A collective groan went around the table. Mariko hid her smile. There was genuine caring in their voices. Nicoletta might not know it, but the Ferraro family had her back.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” Emmanuelle said. “And you can only hope she’s doing in the high school boys who make a pass at her rather than partying every night like certain ones sitting at this table did.”

“Don’t be ratting us out,” Vittorio said. He tried to look innocent but failed.

Everyone laughed, including Mariko. She loved sitting there listening to all of them. She knew she would always love it. Beside her, Ricco was solid and warm, his hand on her nape or holding hers against his thigh. He touched her often, gently, barely there, but enough to let her know he was close and aware of her.

“You deserve to be ratted out as many times as you stopped me going out the window,” Emmanuelle said, pretending to glare at her brother.

“Because you were meeting the prince,” Taviano said. “That was strictly forbidden, but you did it anyway. You were in high school, and he was not only too old for you, but he is the enemy.”

Emmanuelle rolled her eyes and took another bite of garlic bread. “Taviano, what do you think about training Nicoletta?”

“I think it’s a good idea. I agree that it might make her less likely to run and we can all get some sleep. We do need bodyguards assigned to her on an everyday basis.”

“She’s not going to like that,” Emmanuelle said with a little sniff of disdain. “Especially if Emilio trained them and they’re under his jurisdiction.”

Stefano set his wineglass back on the table. “Nicoletta is family whether she likes it or not. We took her in when we made the decision to get her out of that situation. She’ll have bodyguards whether she likes it or not, and because she’s family, that means they’ll be trained by and work under Emilio.” It was a decree, nothing less.

Mariko found it fascinating to watch the interplay within the family. They all got a vote, but Stefano had the last word and everyone accepted it as such. No one ever appeared to really argue with him. Maybe Francesca, but it seemed she didn’t have to argue much. Stefano clearly gave her anything she wanted.

Mariko glanced up at Ricco and found herself blushing. He was looking down at her with a look on his face that took her breath and made her heart flutter. No one looked at her like that. It was the same look Stefano got on his face when he looked at Francesca. Adoring. Loving. She felt the burn of tears. She didn’t have a clue what to do when Ricco looked at her that way. Everything he was offering to her was new. Sometimes she felt like she was in the garden maze, trying to find her way.

He leaned down and pressed his lips against her ear. “I think it’s a Shibari night. A special one. You. Me. The ropes. A very erotic pose. I’ve been sitting here looking at you and I can already see the exact image I want.”

She shivered. Her sex clenched. She was aware of her body beneath the modest clothes she wore. The lacy demi bra and sexy little panties that left her buttocks bare, but had a small bow right at the base of her spine with three strands of cord wrapping around to the front. Ricco liked lingerie. Once, in the ropes, he’d whispered that he liked knowing she wore it just for him. That no one else could see what she gave him.

“We have Nicoletta covered,” Stefano continued. “She’s got Enrica right now, but when this is over, I’ll put the two new men on her. They’re good. Emilio has them well trained and both were Special Forces before they came home. I like them.”

“Too fucking young,” Taviano objected simultaneously with Vittorio.

Mariko had to hide her smile again. It was funny how the brothers all talked alike. Thought alike. Had similar expressions. Voted alike. She smiled up at Ricco, blushing, the color moving up her body like the touch of his hands. She wanted the ropes around her. She wanted to see desire building in Ricco’s eyes. The lines of lust carved deep into his face. Mostly she wanted that feeling of belonging. Of being so seductive he couldn’t resist her.

“Taviano, I know damn well you didn’t just stop at the cameras,” Stefano said, sitting back in his chair, reaching for his wineglass. “What else did you learn?”

“The software he’s using is very advanced. Very. I traced that directly to Forward Technologies.”

Mariko gasped and sat up straight. “That’s the same company that supposedly sent my brother the ticket to come to the United States. They booked the hotel room for him using a company card, but the card was later reported as stolen.”

“To find out the owner of the software company took a bit of doing. Vinci got involved as well as Rigina and Rosina. After we peeled off all kinds of layers, it seems the Yamamotos own the software company, along with the company that produced the faulty casing on the race car. The Yamamotos also own a leading security company complete with the exact same cameras used to keep track of all of us.” Taviano picked up his glass of wine, smiled at his siblings and took a drink.

“Nao Yamamoto,” Stefano said. “Why wait so long?”

“He didn’t make his move until after his father died. He wouldn’t have wanted to shame them further,” Mariko said. “I suspected Nao and actually watched him for several days before I came here. There was nothing out of the ordinary happening with him. He has a caretaker who is with him at all times, but he went to work and then went home. I checked his home and his offices. Ryuu isn’t being held there.”

“If he had these companies hidden, he probably has more,” Stefano said. “Our family certainly does. I’ll get Vinci and the others on it. We’re all looking, Mariko. Everyone is.”

She inclined her head, because around the Ferraros it was difficult to keep her composure. She either wanted to laugh or cry, or join in their ridiculous arguments. She loved the family. She loved the way they gathered at Stefano and Francesca’s home, even if they lived in a penthouse in a hotel. Francesca had made the space into a beautiful, warm, welcoming home.

“Next time we come,” Ricco said, “Mariko and I will be doing the cooking.” He stood up and leaned over to kiss Francesca on the top of her head. “Are we paying Nao a visit later tonight?”

Stefano nodded. “Let’s go around two. His caretaker will have settled down by then and we can have a private chat with him.”

“You two taking off already?” Giovanni asked, nudging Taviano. The two men grinned at each other. Vittorio smirked and winked at her.

Mariko blushed all over again, but she didn’t mind the teasing. She knew it was meant to be affectionate. It made her feel part of their family. More, Ricco moved closer and wrapped his arm around her.

“See you at two, Stefano,” he said, shooting his brothers a quelling glance. He kissed his sister on the cheek and urged Mariko toward the door with his palm in the small of her back. He was silent in the elevator, withdrawing a little, although he held her close to him. She had noticed he did that before he practiced his art.

Just the thought of having him alone with her in the studio was exciting to her. She loved the way he moved, his confidence, how he handled the ropes as if they were a part of him. She couldn’t wait to see just what he had in mind. The sexual tension stretched between them until every nerve ending in her body was so aware of him, she was certain she could orgasm without him touching her. He just had to speak.

Emilio drove them to the house and let them off at the side entrance. She realized, after the attack on the house, that even from above, the entrance was protected from every eye. Not even a marksman would be able to get either of them as they slid from the car and made their way into the house, the thick walls of the entry on either side of them.

“Are you up for this tonight? Physically? It may take time to tie you the way I want.”

She nodded. “I’m ready.”

“You know how to prepare yourself. Wear the red lace one-piece for me. The red stiletto heels. Nothing else.”

His voice stroked her skin with velvet over steel. Dominant. Confident. So completely Ricco. She nodded, already so aroused she could barely speak. She loved that he could do that to her. That it was only Ricco who could see her this way. Needy. Hungry for him. Vulnerable. Somewhere between lust and love.

He reached out to cup her cheek, his thumb sliding over her high cheekbone, his dark eyes so intense she shivered again.

“I love you, Mariko. Never, never doubt that. I love you with everything in me.”

The pad of his thumb, sliding back and forth over her skin, was mesmerizing. His eyes were hypnotic. She was so far under his spell she knew she would never get out, and she didn’t want to. She wanted to spend her life with this man.

“I love you, too.”

“If at any time I do anything you don’t like, you tell me and we stop. If a tie hurts, you say so. Don’t stay too long because you want to please me. It wouldn’t. Shibari, to me, is decorative tying. I want to edge us into something more erotic. If you are uncomfortable or don’t like it, you speak up. Do you understand me? The most important thing we have is communication.”

She was already damp, and getting more so with every word. She wanted him. She wanted his art on her body. His ropes. His hands. His mouth. All of him. She had hoped he would take their art that one step further. “I will,” she promised.

“This time, come to my room, not the studio.”

She blinked up at him. They always worked in the studio. Just the thought of going to his room sent a rush of heat through her body. “I will,” she said, not asking questions. She knew he wouldn’t answer anyway, but he had something planned and she was certain she would be the beneficiary of that plan.

He brushed a kiss across her temple and then abruptly turned and walked away. She watched him go. He moved like a cat, all fluid muscle and rippling power. She knew, no matter how old she got, or how long she was with him, she would always feel that secret thrill when she watched him walk toward her or away from her.

She took her time with her routine, bathing in scented water, hydrating, doing her hair and makeup. She loved the way she felt in front of the vanity–so very feminine. That was a feeling she wasn’t certain she would get used to. The red catsuit was stretch lace and it framed her curves with a delicate pattern, lying against her skin so lightly she almost couldn’t feel it. The neck was low, but not plunging. The suit would have been modest if it hadn’t been made of the fragile lace, leaving skin exposed everywhere.

With every step toward him, her excitement grew. Her heart hammered out a rhythm. There was an accompanying throbbing deep in her sex. Her clit felt swollen, her pulse pounding right through it. She hesitated at the door, unsure whether to knock or just go in. She’d been sleeping in his bed the last few nights so it seemed silly to knock. Still, he’d been fairly formal after leaving Stefano’s apartment.

She took a deep breath and pushed open the door. Ricco looked up immediately. He had rope in one hand and bamboo pole in the other. He didn’t smile, but his gaze drifted over her possessively. His eyes darkened and the lines in his face were carved with sensual lust. He looked sinful in his low-cut, button-up jeans. Only two of the four buttons were done up so she could see his muscle, the dark ripple of hair and the vee that was so intriguing, disappearing into his jeans.

She turned around for him and then, turning back so she could watch him, she did slow stretching. She needed to warm up her muscles before he began tying, especially if it was going to be a long, complicated tie. His camera sat on the nightstand. He intended to take pictures.

He walked toward her, his stride confident, nothing lazy about it. He was all business, his features serious, a look she loved on him when he was practicing his art on her. Her heart jerked hard in her chest as she caught the scent of the rope. Sweet grass. He was using hemp. The texture of the rope was different than what he’d been using on her. Ricco was mesmerizing as he slid the rope through his hand, checking, she knew now, for splinters and burn speed to ensure her comfort.

He caught her hands decisively, tied them and pulled them up and over her head. The movement was very controlled, setting her heart pounding. She didn’t know why she had such a reaction to Ricco when he was so dominant, but she loved how he took control, even when she knew one word from her and everything stopped.

His breath touched her neck as he lifted the heavy fall of hair and began braiding it. The tug felt like a massage on her scalp, and it wasn’t until he pulled her arms down behind her that she realized her hair was braided into the rope and her head was tilted at an angle so that she couldn’t move. For one moment panic set in. It was silly really; she’d been tied so completely she couldn’t move, and yet it was immobilizing her head that caused her to become anxious.

His lips slid down the nape of her neck. “I’ve got you, farfallina mia. I’ll always have you.” His arms came around her and he pulled her back against his body. He was rock hard, his body strong, his heart beating against her back, his cock pressed tightly, intimately against her bottom. “Do you want to stop?”

She didn’t. She wanted this with him. Just as it grounded him, it did the same for her. The connection between them was so intense when he tied her, she craved that closeness. She felt like she could see into his soul–and he into hers.

“Your breathing changed.” His hand moved up her body to circle her throat. With her head slightly tipped back, her throat was exposed and his palm wrapped around it easily, so that it seemed as if her heart beat right into his hand. “When I’m with you, Mariko, my focus is wholly on you. Always you. I see everything you do. The way your body responds to me, to my art.”

His fingers trailed down her chest to the upper curves of her breast. One finger continued, sliding over her right nipple. The lace was open and allowed him to touch bare skin. Her nipples were already peaked, tight little buds. The brush of his fingers sent fiery darts shimmering through her body straight to her sex. She wasn’t certain she would survive.

“The feel of your skin is so warm and soft, better than silk. The lace, so fine and fragile, and the rough of the hemp in contrast. With your arms up over your head, your breasts are lifted in invitation. Such a beautiful temptation.”

The words, murmured in such a low, compelling voice, sent goose bumps over her skin, flutters in her belly and had her sex clenching, spilling more welcoming drops of cream for him.

His hand moved under her breasts and settled on her hip for a moment before he stepped back, the rope in his hand.

“This is a tortoiseshell body harness, but I see it on you a bit different than I might tie it normally. Your skin . . .” He trailed off and continued working, bringing a double line around under her breasts, laying the ropes along her rib cage to ensure they didn’t interfere with her breathing. “The lace, so fragile, and the harsher texture of the rope will look beautiful with this tie.” His arms went around her, the rope snaking around, and then his breath was once again against her ear. “Every time I look at you, you take my breath away.”

His fingers moved down her back, following her spine to the base, where he laid his palm briefly. The contrast between his skin on hers and the rougher brush of the rope he held sent waves of heat crashing through her. She wasn’t certain how much time passed after that as he built the tortoiseshell body suit. He worked fast and then slow. He touched her often. Her hair, running his lips down her exposed throat, his tongue touching the nipple peeking out through the lace, a brush of his hand over her buttocks.

She was acutely aware of him at all times. Her body waited for his touch, craving it. A string of knots went down her front from un
der her breasts and down her back as well in perfect symmetry, and she found herself squirming a little, wanting those knots in other places. He didn’t give her that, but he worked close, his head down sometimes, brushing across her nipples until they felt on fire.

“Stop squirming,” he murmured absently, and his teeth nipped at her buttocks. She couldn’t stop the little cry of need from escaping as his hand slid down her leg, following another long knotted rope. He was on his knees now, in front of her, his breath adding to the heat building in her sheath until she thought she would fragment into a million pieces. The tension coiled tighter and tighter with no relief.

She tried to concentrate on the music, to take her mind off the need that had grown out of control. She’d never felt so sensual, writhing in the ropes at times, trying to rub her thighs together in an effort to alleviate the terrible ache that grew every moment. She found herself living second to second, waiting for his touch. Waiting for his breath. The brush of his hair. The rope was tight, wrapped around her like his arms.

Her mind began to chant, please, please, please. She couldn’t think, she could barely breathe with needing him. The rope slithered down her left leg and he began tying with that decisive precision, his concentration seemingly on his work while all her concentration was centered on him.

Her skin felt raw with fiery nerves. The sensitive bundle of nerves inside her feminine sheath pulsed and burned. His tongue was suddenly on her inner thigh, licking at the wetness there. She cried out, writhing again, unable to be still when her body was no longer her own but entirely his. His hands gripped her thighs, fingers digging into the flesh beneath rope and lace, holding her still while he indulged himself. His tongue was wicked, sinful, sliding up her inner thigh, dancing along the crease of her lips, flicking at her clit hard, so that her entire body shuddered, and then it was gone, back to her other thigh.

“Ricco.” She hissed his name. A demand. A plea.

He lifted his head to smile up at her. “You taste delicious.”

She wanted to scream when he went back to his tying, leaving her on fire. There was no way to rub her thighs together, he was wedged between them as he worked. His hair brushed her inner thighs, the sensations keeping that tension inside of her winding tight until she thought she would go insane with desire. Then he was moving her, pushing her down to the floor, spreading her legs even farther apart.

He drew up her left leg and deftly wove rope from her shin to her upper thigh. He did the same with the right, forcing her knees up with her legs wide apart. He wound the rope around one of the bedposts and slipped it into the loop of the tie on her right and then did the same with the left. His eyes on hers, a small, very wicked smile on his face, he cinched the rope, and she gasped as it drew her left leg wider apart. He cinched the other rope and her right leg was pulled wider.

He stepped back to survey his work, his gaze burning on her wet, needy sex. All she could focus on was the bulge at the front of his trousers. She licked her lips. He stepped closer, right between her legs. Her head was tilted up, and if he had been naked she would be at a perfect angle to get what she wanted, and suddenly it was all that she wanted.

“What is it, farfallina mia?”

She hadn’t realized she was making frantic little mews. “You.” He just stood there, looking down at her, stretching her need out until she wanted to scream. “Your cock. In my mouth. Right. Now.” The last was a demand, nothing less, because if he didn’t give her what she wanted, she was going to lose her mind.

He reached for the last two buttons of his jeans, undid them and began to slide the material off his hips. He seemed to move in slow motion. Every cell in her body focused on him. His hands. His skin. The slow revelation of his beautiful cock. Full. Hard. Long and thick. All hers. All for her. He stepped away from her and she cried out, straining in the ropes toward him.

He shimmied out of the jeans, turned and placed them over the back of a chair and reached for the camera.

“Ricco.” Now it was a plea. Her body needed. Craved. Was obsessed with having him. She had to be touched. Her skin burned for his touch. Her sex wept with need and there was no way to hide it from him with her legs drawn apart. She supposed she should have been ashamed, humiliated, that he could see her need of him, but instead, she wanted him to see his effect on her.

“You look so beautiful. Your throat.” He trailed his hand down her throat. “Your breasts.” The position of her arms had her breasts jutting out toward him, nipples, twin tight peaks, desperate for his attention. He massaged first one and then the other. In one motion, he suddenly shredded the delicate lace, leaving both breasts bare, framed by red lace and hemp.

He stepped back and took several pictures from several angles while she panted, her breath so ragged, her sheath on fire. Everything he did inflamed her body more.

He came closer again and leaned down, once again, his hand on her throat, feeling her heart beat into his hand while his wicked fingers and thumb tugged at her nipples. Then his mouth was there, hot and demanding. She was helpless, unable to move or touch him. She realized just why some women and men found the ropes so erotic. The sexual tension built beyond anything she could ever have conceived. His mouth on her breasts had her shuddering with desire. Her sex clenched and throbbed, burning in need.

He took several pictures of her. She couldn’t see her breasts but she knew his marks were there. He knelt, his hand going low, sliding between her legs, finger moving the lace aside to brush over her clit, making her entire body ripple with pleasure. The pleasure was so intense it bordered on pain. His finger probed deep and her needy body clamped down instantly, trying to draw him deeper. Her muscles were tight and they held him inside her, where he could feel the fiery heat. His finger moved and she cried out, moving her hips, desperate for release.

He removed his finger, licked, then sucked, his eyes on hers. Another small cry escaped and he smiled and reached down, once again ripping lace. The action nearly sent her over the edge, her orgasm so close she reached for it with everything in her. He moved back, just out of her reach and she moaned with the loss.

“Beautiful,” he murmured, and snapped several pictures.

“Ricco. Please.” She couldn’t manage anything else. She hadn’t known a woman could be so aroused.

He set the camera carefully down and once again moved between her legs. His hand circled his cock, his thumb sliding over the head to smear the pearly drops all over. Her gaze was riveted there. Her tongue went out to moisten her lips. She couldn’t move her head forward the scant inch to reach him. She could only watch as his fist did a slow slide up and down.

“Is this what you want?”

She tried to say yes, but it came out sounding like a sob. He smiled and stepped that inch closer, the head of his cock sliding over her lips. She opened her mouth but he just traced her lips, just enough that she had the hot masculine taste of him setting up the addiction. His hand slid into her hair, fisted there. When he pulled her head farther back, every rope on her body vibrated, sending shock waves through her.

She cried out as her body reacted, the nerves going wild. His cock slid into her mouth and she closed her lips around him, drawing him in, grateful she had something to concentrate on instead of the need raging through her like a firestorm. She’d read books, learned technique by practicing on a banana or cucumber. It had been a silly idea, but she was so glad she had. She used everything she’d learned, flicking her tongue. Dancing it. Fluttering it against the spot right beneath the crown that sent shudders through his body.

His hips began to move, a slow, gentle rhythm. She didn’t understand how he could be so gentle when she felt wild and out of control. She suckled strongly while he did the work. She couldn’t move her head so he set the speed. She should have been afraid, but when he slipped deeper, she welcomed him, trying for more.

She wanted to swallow him down. Take him deep into her. Surround him with the damp heat of her mouth the way the ropes surrounded her. Her eyes never left his face. She needed to see the desire there, the way his breath hitched. The shudders running through his body as she worked him. She was powerless in the ropes and yet at her most powerful. This man trembled before her.

“Farfallina mia.” He began to withdraw slowly.

She clamped her lips tighter with a small cry of dissent. She could feel him swelling even more, growing thicker and hotter. Drops of his essence leaked into her mouth and she eagerly swallowed them down, taking his length deeper still.

“I’m not going to be able to stop and you’ll have to swallow,” he warned.

She suckled harder. Her tongue teased and danced, fluttered up and down his shaft as she worked him. His hips thrust deeper. The fist in her hair tightened on her scalp, setting the ropes in motion so they flicked her skin with tiny bites and flares of heat. She kept her eyes on his. The lust there. The love. The need in him matching the hunger in her.

Then he was erupting. Swearing. His head thrown back. His throat as vulnerable as hers. She could barely keep up with the rocketing stream jetting down her throat. It was perfection. But her sex clenched and wept and needed until she wanted to cry. Even taking him into her body, swallowing him down, bringing him practically to his knees, didn’t ease the burning. If anything, it only made it worse.

He withdrew slowly from her mouth and she licked her lips, her gaze clinging to his, silently begging for more. For anything. For his touch. His kiss. His everything. He bent his head and brushed his lips across hers, his hand going to the back of her head, to the ropes. One handed, he released her hair so she could straighten her head. The action sent more vibrations singing against her sensitive skin.

She cried out and he caught at the rope around the post, releasing first one and then the other. He caught her up, her legs still spread wide, still in the crab position, her knees up and tied to her shins. That left her sex completely exposed and open to him. He set her on the bed, one hand went to her belly and he pushed her back. Her hands were under her shoulders, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was his mouth on her.

He didn’t wait. There was no pause. No warning. His tongue stabbed into her, fingers spreading her wide, and then he was devouring her. She fell over the edge, screaming, her body throwing her mind into chaos, into somewhere she’d never been. He didn’t stop as her orgasm rushed over her like a freight train. His tongue was wild, licking, slashing, fluttering against her clit, following his fingers as he plunged two into her, pushing through tight folds to find her most sensitive spot. She exploded again, fragmenting, thrown deeper into a world of pure feeling, so deep she feared she might never return.

She was helpless under his onslaught, that wicked tongue and sinful fingers extracting more and more cream. The moment one orgasm stopped, the next began to build. Each one seemed stronger than the last. Then he was once again over top of her, his cock slamming deep without preamble. She was hot and slick and screaming as he drove into her because nothing had ever felt that good.

He took her hard and fast, driving into her, leveraging with his arms on the bed while his hips surged into her over and over. Streaks of fire raced through her body from toes to breasts and radiated to her arms and legs. Every hard thrust sent her body skittering on the mattress, pushing her deeper so that the ropes vibrated and sang, flicking at her skin, taking tiny, heated bites, so it felt like Ricco was touching, kissing and nipping at her everywhere.

The need coiled tighter and tighter. Built higher and higher. Her head thrashed from side to side. He had to stop–he could never stop. It was terrifying. Beautiful. Brutal. Perfect. His cock swelled, pushing at the tender tissue, triggering the gathering explosion. She came apart. Completely and utterly apart. So many pieces. So good. So bad. So everything. She heard her keening wail, the only sound that could possibly emerge when she’d fractured into a million pieces and all were floating somewhere in subspace.

She felt the hot jet of his release filling her, triggering another orgasm so her body rippled and the ropes vibrated and sang while he lay over her, fighting for air. He brushed kisses into her belly button and over the underside of her breasts. He lifted his head to look at her, his eyes still dark with the intensity of their wild joining. “I should have been a little more gentle.”

Mariko’s head was still spinning. Euphoria was difficult to come down from. “I didn’t want gentle. I wanted perfection and I got it.”

He kissed her and then stood up, looking very male and very satisfied. Instead of beginning to untie her, he caught up the camera again. She touched her tongue to her lip. “What are you doing?”

“If I can get my hands to stop shaking, I’m going to take a picture of you. Dio, you’re beautiful. I’m getting hard just looking at you.” He snapped several more pictures from various angles and then put the camera aside.

She didn’t have to ask–he was already releasing ropes and he was fast at it. The moment he had her untied, he began massaging her arms to ensure her circulation was in no way impaired. He shredded the red lace, tossing it aside so he could massage the rope marks on her skin. “You’ll wear these for a few days,” he said.

“I hope they last a long time.” She was truthful.

She couldn’t keep her hands off him. She wanted to touch him everywhere and she did, stroking, caressing, kissing, biting, licking at him. Her fingernails moved over his back and down to his buttocks.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“We have until two o’clock and I’m making every single second count.”

“I’m human, Mariko. Coming twice is . . .”

She pushed him to his back. “Then I get to play.”

He laughed softly as she kissed his throat and down his chest to his nipples where her tongue flicked at him. “Play all you want.” His hands covered her bare buttocks, fingers digging deep in a massage.

She kissed her way down to his cock, already semihard. Yeah. She was going to get her way.


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