Remembering the bewildering pain and humiliation, Laney still felt hot all over, then deadly cold.

All that pain had to be for something.

What was the risk? She would take that ten million dollars and walk out of here like a queen, able to take care of her family for the rest of her life.

Lifting her chin, she looked at Kassius Black with glittering eyes. “I accept.”

A flash of triumph crossed his handsome face. Leaning forward, he loosened the pins of her chignon, causing her long dark hair to tumble down her shoulders.

“At last,” he said huskily and pressed her back against the bed, kissing her, hard and deep.

She felt nothing. That ten million dollars was as good as in her pocket.

He ran his hands slowly, softly down her body. His kiss gentled. Where a moment before his lips had demanded and possessed, now they caressed like a whisper. Luring her.

She felt a strange shiver in her breasts and low in her belly. She pushed it away. Frigid little virgin.

Moving his hands behind her, he unlatched her strapless white bra. She nearly gasped as her full breasts spilled naked into his hands.

With a soft hiss of appreciation, he pushed her back against the bed, running his hands down her body. He cupped a heavy breast, squeezing it lightly, until the full, ripe pink of her nipple presented itself between his fingers like a rose-colored pearl.

She felt nothing, she told herself. Her heart was pounding. She was like stone.

He lowered his head. She felt the warmth of his breath, then he pulled her virgin nipple fully into his mouth. As he suckled her, electricity sizzled up and down the length of her body. She stiffened, gripping his shoulders tightly.

Like stone, she told herself desperately. Stone!

He cupped her other breast, suckling the taut, red, aching nipple. She sucked in her breath.

Suddenly, he gripped both her wrists, pushing them up against the headboard. Leaning forward, he growled in her ear, “You are going to lose.”

“I won’t,” she panted, but a trickle of fear went down her spine. She couldn’t lose. Not only would she lose her family’s security, but her own. It would mean possibly getting pregnant by a man she barely knew. Becoming his wife. It would mean a loveless marriage. She wouldn’t do that just for one moment of pleasure! She couldn’t, wouldn’t, let herself do that.

Could she...?

His heavily muscled body pressed hers deeper into the mattress. His hard grip held down her wrists as he kissed her, then licked and nibbled down her throat, her earlobes, her clavicle. She felt the hardness of him, straining between her legs. She whimpered.

Releasing her wrists, he kissed her more gently now, stroking her with his hands, caressing her cheek, her throat, her aching breasts. He explored her belly, the curve of her hips. He ran his fingertips along the top edge of her white cotton panties, teasing her. His touch was like a whisper.

No. Her hands gripped the white comforter beneath her.


She couldn’t let herself feel pleasure!

She had to resist!

He paused, then deliberately stroked over the thin cotton panties, over the mound between her legs. She choked back a gasp, biting down hard on her lip. He kept moving downward, running his palms over her thighs, causing prickles of heat to spread across her body.

Pushing her legs apart, he lowered his head in little kisses down her belly, all the way down to where his hands recently had touched. He paused at the top of her panties, then deliberately teased her with the warmth of his breath, kissing the edges of the fabric, stoking her desire.

Desire. Was that what she felt? She desired him. But she couldn’t. This couldn’t happen.

Getting pregnant would change her life forever. And not just hers. She’d always known when she became a mother, she would do it properly. She’d find a nice, kind, trustworthy man whom she loved. They would date for a year, pay for their own simple wedding with the income from their sensible, stable jobs, then save up for the deposit for a house with a white picket fence. Only then, when they both were ready, would they deliberately choose to bring a child into the world. Because a baby deserved security and love and stability. Laney knew this better than anyone.

So even if the chance was small that she could get pregnant tonight, she couldn’t take that risk. Not for some ridiculous challenge!

She had to tell him to stop. To call off this game. Tell him he could keep his stupid money.

She had to get out of here, before it was too late!

Just be stone! Her brain shrieked.

The trouble was she no longer felt like stone.

Her breaths came in little gasps as he knelt at the foot of the bed, between her legs. Noises suddenly thundered outside, in explosions. They both turned to face the windows of the balcony. Through the translucent curtains, they saw brilliant fireworks bursting across the dark sky. Kassius looked down at her.

“It’s midnight,” he said huskily. “Happy New Year.”

Cupping her cheek, he kissed her. His mouth was searing, demanding. She felt the roughness of his chin, felt the lure of his tongue against hers. She was lost in his sensual warmth, held beneath the weight of his powerfully muscled body, and worse—the weight of her own desire.

Just one more minute, and I’ll tell him to stop, she promised herself. Just one more minute...

A burst of wind swirled the gauzy curtains, filling the room, twisting around their entwined, half-naked bodies and cooling their overheated skin. She clutched at his shoulders.

Holding her down, he pushed her lips firmly apart, stroking her tongue with his own. He lured her, enticed her, until suddenly she realized she was kissing him back. Moments later—or maybe hours—he lifted his head. But she didn’t have time to catch her breath as he moved down her body. His soft, wet mouth wrapped around her hard, aching nipple, and pleasure ripped through her.

She swallowed, squeezing her eyes shut, gasping beneath the sensual wet swirl of his mouth. His hands slowly stroked her hips. Her thighs. The tender skin between them.

He straightened from the bed and slowly slid her panties over her thighs, down her legs, before tossing them to the floor.

She was completely naked now, spread-eagle across his enormous bed.

“You—frigid!” he muttered almost angrily. “What fool convinced you of that!”

He dropped his trousers and silk boxers to the floor. He sprang out, thick and hard and unrestrained.

She looked at Kassius’s naked, powerful body in the moonlight and couldn’t look away.

His chest was muscled like warm marble, and the trail of dark hair went down his body to his flat, taut belly. Beneath that... She swallowed. It was the first time she’d seen a fully naked, erect man. He was huge, both in girth and length, and so hard.

Her hand tentatively reached out. He grabbed it.

“Please, can I?” She took a deep breath. “I’ve never...” She blushed. “Never touched...”

He stared at her. Then released her hand.

She shyly reached out to touch him lightly with her fingertips, stroking the edges of his shaft. He felt like velvet over steel. He bucked beneath her stroke.

She looked up at him in shock. “You...want me...so badly?”

“Let me show you,” he said huskily.

Placing his hands on her shoulders, he pushed her back against the mattress and kissed her hungrily, covering her with his naked body. She felt the heaviness of his muscled legs, rough with hair, against her own, felt his stubbled jawline like sandpaper against her soft skin. Most of all, she felt the thick hardness of him against her belly.

She was tight and aching all over. She nearly cried out from the friction of his hard chest against her sensitive nipples as he slid down her body. She felt him between her legs, demanding entry, and it was all she could do not to spread her legs wider, like a wanton desperate to have him inside her. But he kept moving down, down, all the way to her feet.

Kneeling between her legs, he kissed the hollow of a foot, and the sensitive back of her knee. He stroked slowly up to his thighs, pushing her thighs farther apart.

“What are you—”

“Shh,” he whispered. “You’ll like it.”

He lowered his head. She felt his hot breath on the tender skin of her inner thighs, and a rush of desperate need coursed through her. She knew she was running out of time. She had to push him away, to tell him no, to jump up and run screaming from the bed.

But she couldn’t. She gripped the white comforter, her body shaking, unable to stop him as he lowered his head between her legs.

Reaching his hands around her backside, he held her tight, and she felt the warmth of his breath on her most secret core. For a moment, he paused. As if giving her one last chance to refuse.

Then he ruthlessly lowered his head. Spreading her wide, he took a long, languorous taste with the full roughness of his tongue. As she gasped, he sighed in pleasure.

“You taste like caramel,” he whispered huskily. “Salty and sweet.”

She felt his hot breath on her thighs as he nuzzled her. Felt the roughness of his bristly chin against her thighs, the silky swirl of his mouth against her aching wet core. Involuntarily, her hips rose to meet the thrust of his mouth...

This was madness. She had to stop now. Now!

Just one more minute, she thought desperately. Just one. She would die if she didn’t have one more minute...

Her hips twisted beneath his mouth as he worked her with his tongue, swirling around her. He eased a finger just barely inside her. She gasped, gripping the bed. She started to shake.

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