“Listen, I think it’s great and all you’re getting your brain fucked out your ears in Los Cabos, but you’ve still got to deal with the real-life shit back in California,” Nick’s publicist barked into Tallulah’s ear.
Garbed in one of Nick’s shirts, she padded into the kitchen, answering in a chipper singsong tone, “Hello to you too, Juan.”
“Erm, hey, Tally,” Juan greeted, attempting to soften his signature jagged delivery. “Uh, where’s Nick?”
She extracted a glass from the cupboard and pressed it against the fridge dispenser’s tongue, summoning ice to tumble and clink as they piled up. “Oh, he’s indisposed at the moment, but you can leave a message with me and I’ll make sure he gets it.”
“There is a fuck-ton of scheduled appointments he needs to confirm with Aishwarya. Barber, sauna and masseuse, fitness trainer, final fitting with the designer, and there are three afterparties he’s set to attend,” he paused, then added, “with you as his plus one. The Governor’s Ball, Vanity Fair, and the studio’s afterparty. The event organizers need to know both your meal selections for the sit-down dinners. Speaking of dinners, remind him not to eat after six o’clock. He also needs to do his goddamn exercise routines. All of this is outlined in the emails I sent him as well as the text messages and voicemails.”
Tallulah strutted back into the master suite and relished the sight of Nick in all his nude glory as he sported a thick erection. “I’ll be sure to tell him. Have a lovely day.”
She hung up before Nick’s publicist could fire any more demands into her ear and tossed the cell onto the bed. “That was Juan.”
Nick acknowledged her arrival by lifting his head off the mountain of pillows. A muffled umph filtered through the panties stuffed in his mouth. A familiar satin blindfold graced his eyes and handcuffs wreathed his wrists resting above his head.
Yesterday, she was his prisoner.
Today, he was hers.
“He says you need to check your emails.” She rattled the cupped ice to rouse his curiosity and heighten his anticipation.
His bound hands flexed and clenched eagerly.
She settled the glass onto the nightstand and fished out a cube, straddling him. He was the perfect embodiment of self-restraint as she drew delicate watery strokes on his chiseled physique. When she circled the ice around his nipple, he exhaled sharply through his nostrils. She smirked at the chink in his armor and weaponized the ice to torment his nipples, dipping down to warm them with languid laves. The contrasting attacks induced deep-chested growls.
Tallulah ungagged him, keen to hear his filth.
“Always givin’ me hell, angel,” he panted, wetting his lips hungrily.
“That’s because you don’t deserve heaven yet,” she taunted.
A wanton huskiness stained his proposition. “Sit on my face and I’ll bring heaven to you.”
A bolt of arousal struck her, but she refrained from giving into it—from giving into him. She was on a mission and she wouldn’t be deterred.
“I think I want you exactly like this. Hot, bothered, and helpless,” she purred, slithering another icy piece into his mouth to offer some relief. He crunched furiously and gulped, evoking a throaty giggle out of her. She fed him more ice and instructed him to hold them there as she kissed down his body.
He nearly choked as she swallowed all of him.
Once upon a time, Veronica taught her daughter to appreciate the sunlight. The lessons were on rare sunny days of sobriety. Their lives were stormy and volatile, making mother-daughter time a cherished occasion. Due to the fact Tallulah inherited her mother’s flawless hazelnut complexion, Veronica teasingly dubbed sunbaths as roasting.
“For black beauties like us, roasting brings out all our richness.” Her mother always touted as they lounged blissfully on their towels in the unkempt backyard and basked in the comforting sunshine.
After her mother overdosed, Tallulah lost her taste for roasting, but she didn’t neglect Milo of childhood days of fun in the sun. They regularly visited their old apartment complex’s community pool and crowded beaches. He’d splash in the Pacific waves and tides while she’d watch on from the shore in a beachy sundress.
This trip’s theme was indulgence and she decided to put her butter-hued retro bikini to good use. She sauntered onto the penthouse’s terrace. On the opposite end, a dedicated Nick executed his prescribed exercise routine. While he did intense abdominal crunches, she settled on a reclined double-wide outdoor chaise. She leisurely greased sunscreen on her brown skin and rested her back on the warm cushions, savoring the heat from above.
As time breezed by, she sat upright and moved her tresses aside to access the knotted strings at her nape which kept her swimsuit top taut. A single tug undid bond, her bikini’s cups plummeting. She reached around to untie the lower pair of strings. Peeling away the garment, her shielded gaze caught a rapt blue-eyed one. It was only then she realized a panting Nick paused on his fitness regime, his sheen of perspiration glimmering in the sunlight.
She peered over her sunglasses’ rims to wink at him before she discarded her bikini top and resumed lolling on the chaise. His labored grunts reached her ears as he conducted push-ups, lunges, squats, and unfamiliar maneuvers. He exuded determination. She rotated on her belly and propped her cheek atop her crossed arms, feasting her eyes on him until she dozed off.
Rough hands eased her swimsuit bottoms down her legs, gently pulling a delicious cat nap away from her. The buttery pair landed on her discarded top. Nick’s gym shorts resided directly beside the pile. Before her drowsy brain could comprehend what that meant, a strong arm looped around her torso and towed upward, angling her hips.
She moaned and arched against him as his teeth caught her earlobe and nipped it lovingly. His body blanketed hers, eclipsing her from the sun.
“The moment you took that top off, you became my muse to finish my workout so I can work you out,” he enlightened gruffly.
Her jaw dropped as he burrowed his dick into her, his weight flattening her against the chaise as he fucked her in urgent strokes. Every insistent thrust stoked the raging heat within her lower belly.
I’m going to break you into a sweat, his body communicated.
He didn’t want her to last.
As sure as the shining sun above, she didn’t want to either.
Brown eyes. Brown eyes void of life’s spark, but potent enough to curse a ten-year-old girl with a lifelong trauma. So much promise and hope, but her mother’s dead eyes took that from her.
Tallulah clawed out of her nightmare, bolting upright. As she trembled, hot tears blurred her eyesight. A sob crawled up her throat and sputtered out. Her heart drummed a panicked rhythm, its song haunting her ears. A big hand gently clasped her chin and steered her traumatized gaze.
“It was only a nightmare, baby,” Nick cooed as he drew her into an embrace, leaning his chin atop her head. “Only a nightmare.”
She wept. “I hate him. I hate him so fucking much for taking her away from me—for taking my childhood from me. Neither of us had a chance.”
“He’s rotting in prison for life,” Nick reminded. “He can’t hurt you anymore, Desiree.”
“I don’t want him rotting in a prison cell. I want him rotting in a pine box, Nick,” she snapped.
After a beat, Nick sighed heavily, “I’m not disclaimin’ the fact Thibault’s a monster ‘cause he is, but after he got busted, he could’ve ratted me out to save his own ass but he didn’t, Desiree. He definitely could’ve ratted me out or tried to blackmail me once I made it big but he hasn’t yet. If he did, being yours would’ve been a dream and not my reality. If he did, Milo would’ve grown up with me in prison beside his grandfather.”
Tallulah absorbed his words, hating how right he was. Like a phoenix, she dragged herself out of the ashes of her fucked-up childhood, building a new life for herself. Over the years, Thibault had the power to set her world on fire again, but he hadn’t.
Yet, she added internally.
Maybe, he grew tired of his wicked ways. Or maybe, he wanted her to marinate on the fear of him in possession of such a secret. She was uncertain what kind of man prison shaped Thibault into, but she was certain she didn’t want to find out.
“I still hate him,” she muttered, nuzzling her cheek into his bare chest.
Nick reclined, taking her with him. “After everything he’s done, it’s your right to.”
A pregnant silence descended upon them, but neither surrendered to sleep yet. Tallulah illustrated invisible shapes on his flesh, worrying more nightmares would prey on her if she closed her eyes.
Resting his forearm across his brow, he stared up at the ceiling pensively. “My pop wasn’t an easy man to love. He worked me like a dog from dawn to dusk. I thought he hated me. I thought he was punishing me for just breathing.”
A sad chuckle rumbled in his chest, the melancholy sound dying away moments later. “I didn’t have the nerve to ask him. Not until stage four liver stage put him on his deathbed. All ‘em years of drinkin’ caught up with him. Ma’s passin’ from pneumonia escalated the inevitable. I knew if I didn’t ask him why he was so hard on me, I’d never know the truth. You wanna know what he told me?”
Nick never spoke of his parents—of his childhood. He grew up on a two-hundred-year-old family farm passed down from his mother’s side. His father worked a coal miner until a tunnel collapse forced him into early retirement, resigning himself to life of a farmer. His parents’ stringent upbringing couldn’t falter his good-humored nature. He inherited their stubborn spirit and stalwart work ethic, but being a jokester brought him joy and lots of trouble.
When he was nineteen, he lost his mother. When he was twenty-one, he lost his father. The losses were the driving force behind his crossroad journey to a new life in California.
Tallulah whispered, “What did he tell you?”
“There are two kinds of folks in the world: coals and diamonds. Everybody starts out as a coal, but it’s how well you endure pressure that makes you into a diamond,” he reiterated, imitating his father’s deep timbre.
Her eyes rounded in shock and she lifted her head, a realization dawning on her.
He continued, “Your childhood didn’t break you. It put pressure on you and as a result, you became a diamond. My diamond.”
Now, she knew the inspiration behind his pet name for her.
“Why haven’t you told me that story before?”
His solemn stare trained at the ceiling refused to waver and he combed his fingers through his messy hair. “I suppose seein’ you in tears—in pain—put enough pressure on me to.”
“Thank you, Nick. I know that was a lot for you.” She plopped her cheek onto his chest against, splaying her hand over his heart.
After a beat, he asked, “Do you want…to hear another story?”
Tallulah’s lip corners curled. “I’d love to.”
“Three of a kind,” Nick announced smugly as he laid his cards on the table, showing off an 8 of spades, an 8 of hearts, an 8 of clubs, a king of spades, and a 2 of hearts. “A deal’s a deal, Diamond. The bra comes off. I need somethin’ tasty to motivate me. Can’t wait to suck on ‘em later on when they bounce in my face.”
Tallulah pouted defeatedly. “Oh, no. What in the world can beat your three of a kind? I guess this straight flush.”
A devious glee etched onto her face as she smacked down her five cards all belonging to the suit of diamonds. How fitting. Nick smirked as he discerned the four, five, six, seven, and eight cards. A number sequence which totaled his loss of this round of strip poker. They both had victories and losses, leaving four articles of clothing left.
Well, now three.
“Underwear off, lover boy,” she teased, rubbing her palms together greedily.
Nick stood to shed his boxer-briefs, leaving him only with a blue-and-white University of Kentucky baseball cap. Tallulah cranked her neck and bit her bottom lip as she unabashedly admired his state of undress and his half-hard cock. He reclaimed his seat, gathered the cards, and performed an artful reshuffle, a competitive tenacity ablaze in his brilliant eyes.
“Let’s raise the stakes,” he challenged.
“You’re only saying that because you’re on your last leg,” she jested lightly as she examined her nails to feign lack of interest.
He quipped, “Naw, I can’t be on my last leg when I’ve got a hardy spare.”
Her heart pitter-pattered at the suggestiveness entwined in his thick tone.
“What’s your offer?” she asked drily, aching to pat her own back at how convincing she sounded.
Nick distributed the round’s hands. “This’ll be our final round. You win, you can ride me how you want. If I win, you gotta ride me how I want.”
He knew how to present with a bet she couldn’t refuse. She loved any and all variations of being on top. The mere thought made her pussy damp and throb needily. She pressed her thighs together to relieve the indecent ache.
Once again, she stimulated an unimpressed expression and propped her elbow on the table, plopping her cheek onto her fist. “Either way, sounds like I’m doing all the work.”
A dark smile graced his lips. “Not if I win.”
Arousal overflooded whatever part of her brain housed logic and reason. For a weak moment, she wanted him to win. She even contemplated folding regardless of how strong or weak her cards were.
“Alright, you’ve got yourself a deal,” she agreed.
He cocked an eyebrow. “Shall we deal it with a kiss?”
Tallulah presented a lovely middle finger. “You can kiss my ass, Nick.”
“If I’m allowed to kiss it, can I eat it too?”
The question provoked her to choke on air. “Are you ready to lose?”
In the end, his royal flush overtook her full house, crowning him victor.
Nick crooked a come-hither finger at her.
Tallulah pressed the private elevator’s down button and waited patiently for its arrival. A squeal fell out of her as Nick embraced her waist and hoisted her, intent on luring her to the penthouse. She suppressed her laughter and wiggled in his arms, ordering him to put her down.
He reluctantly obliged and buried his bearded face into her neck, growling, “I’m not done with you.”
Holy fuck, he was insatiable. Last night, he fulfilled his promise and fucked her underneath the starry sky. Now, it was barely noon and he already bedded her twice. Well, maybe bedded wasn’t an accurate term. That implied they had been in bed when he took her which wasn’t the case either times.
This morning, she awoke alone, only to find an unclad Nick doing push-ups on the floor. She greeted him with a chipper good-morning and a playful pillow bop on the head. He acknowledged her by yanking her and crumpled bedsheets to the floor. He threw both her legs over his shoulders, unraveling her with deep circular thrusts. In the shower, he drove her up the slippery wall literally, impelling her to claw the steamy glass door for purchase.
Tallulah sighed, “Nick, we can’t stay this entire vacation locked away in the penthouse. We need fresh air—”
“There’s fresh air on the terrace,” he interposed a counterpoint.
“True, but it’d be nice for us to go down to the beach and,” she stopped, her speech disintegrating on her tongue as he suckled on a notable weak spot right below her ear.
His warm breath fluttered against the wet patch he created. “And?”
“And feel the sand under our toes,” she gulped, involuntarily arching against his hard body. “Plus, it’d force you to behave and give us a break.”
His lips trailed to her ear, coiling his arms around her waist tighter. “I don’t need a break.”
“Fine, I need a break,” she admitted weakly, reaching behind her to graze her nails down his groomed beard as his tongue teased her earlobe.
The elevator doors parted with a lyrical ding. Nick was glued to her as she moved onto the elevator.
On the way to the ground floor, he backed her into a corner and cleverly squeezed in a makeout session. When his time ran out, he claimed her hand and he led her off the elevator as if his kiss hadn’t discombobulated her. Like a clumsy fool, she briefly stumbled behind him as she attempted to regain her bearings.
The resort had direct access to the beach. They strolled along the shore hand-in-hand.
She nudged her shoulder into him. “See, isn’t this nice?”
Nick grinned. “I stand by what I said. I ain’t got a problem enjoyin’ the beach from the terrace.”
“Yeah, but there are so many things you can do down here than up there on your precious terrace,” she stated matter-of-factly. Then swiftly added, “G-rated things.”
He chuckled, “Such as?”
“Collecting seashells, write messages in the sand, build a sandcastle, kite-flying, a nice romantic sunset picnic,” she listed.
He nodded approvingly. “I’ve got one.”
Her eyebrows jerked up in delight. “Oh?”
“Getting you slopping wet.” Mischief glinted in his eyes.
Before her joy dissipated completely at the vulgar suggestion, Nick scooped her up and charged into the tides. She alternated between shrills and laughs as the waves rolled into them, succeeding in making her slopping wet. Safe from cresting waves, he set her down. The water was chest-deep for him and neck-deep for her. Her feet barely scraped the underwater ground.
“I got you,” he promised, bracing her hips.
“I know.” Tallulah smiled as she wrapped her arms around his neck, pecking him.
A tender moment swathed them as they gazed at each other lovestruck until she dunk his head underwater.