Taking Control

Taking Control

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Synopsis:

I thought I needed only one thing in my life–the money and power to crush one man. But the moment I laid eyes on Victoria Corielli, my thirst for revenge was replaced by my craving for her.

No rule would keep me away; no obstacle too large to overcome. Not her will, not our differing social positions, not my infamous past. When she lost everything, I helped her pick up the pieces. When she trusted me with everything, she sealed her fate.

I’ve convinced Victoria she can put her heart in my hands. Now I have to protect it–from her shady stepfather and my business rivals, from enemies known and hidden. I’ll do anything to keep her. And I might have to prove it, because now Victoria”s risking more than her heart to be with me; she’s risking her life.

 

Excerpt:

CHAPTER 1
IAN
“This fella is a Nigerian dwarf goat. We put them in their own pens because they’re small and stress can make them sick.” The zoo worker gazes adoringly at the slight brunette kneeling at his feet before crouching beside her.
“He’s adorable.” She rubs the goat’s ears. “How old is he?”
“Four years.” His hand joins hers by the animal, ostensibly to give the goat a rubdown, but when his fingers accidentally-on-purpose brush hers for the third time, I’m done with being patient because the beautiful brunette he’s making calf eyes toward is mine.
As if sensing my impending violence, Victoria—or Tiny as her mother called her—tilts her head and beckons me. “Don’t you want to feed the goats, Ian?”
“No.” I want to take you home and make love to you. I want to sink into your body and brand you with mine. When she smiles and crooks her finger, my feet propel me forward as if she has me on a string.
She’s spent too many days and weeks looking sad-eyed and grim after the death of her mother, so if feeding these filthy animals makes her happy, then I’ll get down on my three-hundred-dollar jeans and allow some meat to slobber all over my hand. She dribbles a handful of pellets into my palm.
“Thanks.” They look like bird turds and smell even worse. Two goats mouth my hand, one nearly biting my finger off.
“Hold your hand flat,” she instructs. I straighten my fingers and the goats eat the tiny pellets and then nose around for more. “There. That’s better isn’t it?”
I turn my head into the fall of her honey brown hair and breathe in its lemon scent. “Yeah, much better.”
“Isn’t he the cutest thing?”
I look at the pointed furry face with its soft ears. I suppose it’s cute as cute things go, but it’s dirty here and reminds me of the time I spent poor, hungry, and constantly watching my back down under the Atlantic City boardwalks.
“Lots of cute things in the zoo,” the worker winks at Tiny. The worker is about twenty-two. He has a difficult time growing hair on his face, but he’s working it hard, beards being trendy for the Brooklyn crowd. Idly I imagine him facedown in the shit-stained hay after I’ve taught him that winking at a woman whose man is standing two feet away is a dangerous pastime. I’m trying to curb my caveman instincts for Tiny’s sake. I highly doubt she’d be happy if I started brawling with a kid at the zoo. I can see the headlines now. Kerr Gets KO’ed.
Tiny awkwardly shoves a lock of her hair behind her ear and casts me an uncertain glance. I give her a tight smile. “You ready, babe?”
She nods and rises to her feet. As she brushes her hand against her fit thigh, I slide a possessive arm around her back. “Did you think you had a chance?” I can’t help myself.
“Ian Kerr,” she hisses.
The worker lifts a hand to shade his face. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” He shrugs with the insouciance only the young and privileged can carry off.
Punks like this remind me of an older privileged asshole and the urge to punch his lights out has me clenching my fist. Since that would make Tiny angry, I settle for a warning. “Word of caution. Don’t trespass on another man’s property and you might make it to your quarter century mark without a serious injury.”
The boy’s mouth flaps open, but Tiny tugs me away before he can regain an ounce of composure.
“Property?” she says with an arched eyebrow.
“I belong to you and you belong to me,” I reply. “Two-way street. Besides, would you ever have been interested in a guy like that?”
“He wasn’t even flirting with me.”
Love makes you blind and weak. “If you say so.”
“This was fun.” She squeezes my arm and then leans her sweet head against me. “Thank you for bringing me.”
I’ve bought her gems and houses and apartments, but a trip to the zoo is what makes her happy. I knew from the very first moment I saw her on the street that she was different.
I liked the way she carried herself—self-assured and comfortable. I thought her long, light brown hair would look tempting spread out on my pillow. I imagined her thighs would be steel-hard from the biking. She made me laugh when she kicked the doorframe of the store after realizing the shop owner, who needed to sign for the delivery, was missing.
She made me hard when she stared at my lips like she wanted to taste me.
Her unfettered emotions were refreshing. But it was when she ran from me and my direct offer of pleasure that my appetite was whetted.
I was well and truly caught.
I hadn’t actively avoided love, but I hadn’t sought it out. Why should I? I’d spent most of my thirty-two years fixated on making money. And there were few bedroom doors closed to me. Reasonable attractiveness—made infinitely more so by the thickness of my wallet—ensured that bachelorhood in New York City was easy and entertaining.
Maybe too easy, because her refusal unwittingly transformed her into an irresistible challenge. The more she denied me, the more I wanted her.
Even now, I’m not sure how many walls I’ve managed to tear down, how far inside the citadel of her heart I stand. It’s only when I’m buried inside her that I feel content . . . safe.
There’s a danger that she’ll wake up from her grief-induced fog and realize that I’m a manipulative asshole who is more trouble than he’s worth, but I have time and proximity on my side. I’ve bought my way into her heart and life. I’ll lie, steal, and cheat to stay there because nothing is worth more than her.
The rest of the morning she stays close to me, and while she attracts attention from other men, I manage to keep my temper in check, even in the face of one doughy father looking at her rapaciously as she eats an ice cream cone.
On the ride home, I stew. I manage to hide it well enough that it doesn’t affect her. She sighs happily and then falls asleep against me as we make the trip from Brooklyn back to our home in the Meatpacking District.
Our house is a prime example of Tiny not settling in. There’s very little of her there.
I went through and cleaned out space in the closet for her, but many of the drawers remain empty, and the hanging space I cleared look bare. Tiny still hasn’t let go of her fifth-story walk-up. “My rent is paid,” she’d said mulishly when I brought up the topic. She also has belongings at Central Towers, the place where she and her mom lived temporarily before her mom passed away four weeks ago. Tiny went back once, took a look at the bedroom where her mother had slept, and walked back out. I grabbed a few of her things, and we left. She hasn’t yet returned—at least as far as I know.
I want us to be so intertwined that you can’t tell where my shit ends and her stuff begins. The fact that she’s holding part of herself back is terrifying to me. Me, Ian Kerr, the man who makes Wall Street tremble.
I manage to keep the roiling emotions in check even through dinner. But when she’s skin to skin with me, I can’t hide from her. The sweet welcome of her body is too precious to touch with anything but honesty.
“What’s wrong, Ian?” she asks after we fall back onto the rumpled sheets. “And don’t say nothing because I can still feel you vibrating and it isn’t from me. Is it Richard Howe?”
I jerk back in surprise. “What about him?”
“Maybe if you’d let me help you take him down, I’d feel better. Like I did something for you for a change.”
Little furrows appear between her brows. I try to smooth them away with my finger. “Let me worry about Howe.”
“But, Ian,” she protests. “He’s a boil on the ass of humanity. He needs to be gone.”
She isn’t saying anything I disagree with. I was thirteen when my father died and fifteen when my mother committed suicide. Both events I connect directly to Richard Howe. He needs to be finished, but the last thing I want is for her to become more deeply involved in my revenge scheme—a scheme that I had to revise. Not wanting to hurt Tiny, I couldn’t use another woman.
I was wrong to have allowed that shit to even touch her, and now I’m paying for it. Wrapping her in my embrace, I try to rub out the anxiety I feel with long sweeps of my hands down her strained back.
“It’s just not something you need to be concerned about.”
I feel her open and then shut her mouth. She tries again, her throat a little hoarse with emotion. “I just feel like one of us deserves to have their mother. Cancer stole mine, but he took yours. I want him to suffer. I want him to feel pain. I want him to be afraid to close his eyes at night because of the nightmare we inflict upon him. I hate him. I hate him for you. I hate him for me. I hate him for us.”
Though her fierceness makes me love her more, I don’t want her even breathing the same air as him. I try to explain this to her.
“I want you to be safe,” I say quietly. “To that end, your role in this fiasco is done.”
“You can’t give up on taking him down,” she protests.
“I have no intention of giving up.” I just don’t want her involved anymore. “But I can’t have you flirting with him, touching him. I don’t want you to look at him. I don’t want him to even think about you in any manner. It ruins me.”
“Ian, if you’re baiting the hook with another woman, that means you have to spend time with her. And that would ruin me.” She stabs a thumb into her chest.
“Which is why we should drop it.” Letting go of the past is a bitter and hard pill, but as I told my friend, Kaga, Tiny is far more important to me. At the very least, I need to re-analyze my options.
Her eyes are filled with grief. “I didn’t realize what a monster he was. I just can’t stand that he’s breathing and she’s not.”
On the last word, her voice catches and the tears she’s so valiantly tried to hold back spill over. She’s not crying about Howe. It’s about loss in general. The loss of her mother. The feeling of being out of control and helpless. I understand all of it.
“I hate that I’m crying. I’m blaming that on Howe too,” she says, pressing the heels of her hands against her eyes.
“Crying isn’t a sign of weakness.”
“Oh, right. I see you bawling all over.”
Tiny hates being viewed as fragile.

“Not crying doesn’t make me the better person. Just an emotionally deficient one.”

When I got to the jail where my mother was being held and was told that she’d hanged herself with the scarf that I’d brought her the day before—at her request—I wanted to howl in grief, but I didn’t have anyone to hold me or to stand with me so I swallowed my grief and let it rot me from the inside out.
“You are not deficient,” she says fiercely.
“And you are not weak.” A sharp, bitter laugh escapes me. “I hate that you even know his name. He shouldn’t be allowed to breathe the same air, walk the same streets, eat at the same tables as you.”
Her hand squeezes mine in reassurance. I need to pull it together. It is Tiny’s mother who has recently passed and she is in need of comfort, yet here she is trying to bolster me with the warmth and solace of her body.
“Is it me? Am I preventing you from taking action?”
Sliding my arm around her waist, I struggle for the right answer. “It’s not you. It’s never been you.”
“Why have you waited so long to pull the trigger on him? Metaphorically speaking,” she rushes to add. “I’m not suggesting you should have murdered him or something, but why the kid gloves? The man embezzled money and blamed it on your father. He . . . hurt your mother, and because of him you had to grow up on your own. You’ve had the power to ruin him for years.”
Her explanation of the horror my life turned into after my father’s death is laughably euphemistic. My father had a heart attack after being blamed for a seven-figure embezzlement scheme orchestrated by Richard Howe, my father’s protégé. My mother killed herself in an Atlantic City jail after prostituting herself to Howe in a stupid and tragic attempt to regain money in the mistaken belief that was all she needed to reenter the world she’d lost when my father died. I’d left that jail with her few effects, vowing revenge, and then I met Tiny.
Somehow the need to have her in my life has superseded my desire for retribution. At least momentarily.
Tiny is correct. Richard Howe is the scum of the earth. The ironic thing is that he is also the one that brought us together.
Until I’d met Tiny, I’d been good at compartmentalization, putting each person or activity in its own separate mental file drawer. Trying to ignore the strength of my developing feelings for her, I thought to use her against Richard. But she wouldn’t stay in her little drawer; instead, her influence crept into every aspect of my life.
I was wholly unprepared for the depth of my feelings for Tiny. Or, more likely, I had been denying them. I wanted her but hadn’t realized until the moment I saw them together, dancing, that I’d rather burn the whole world down than have another man lay a finger on her.
I tried to swallow down the rage and allow Tiny to lure him in, but as each minute ticked by and he stood close enough to touch her, my anger was stoked hotter and hotter. And when he placed his fucking hands on her, my restraint was ripped to shreds. I wish I had realized sooner that I’d feel that way.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Kaga, one of my few friends, had asked me at the time. “If you walk out there, he’s going to know what she means to you.”
“If I watch him try to touch her ass one more time, you’ll be visiting me in prison,” I’d said.
That he even knows her name is my own goddamn fault.

I rub my forehead. “When I first returned to the city, I had these grand ideas that I’d storm his townhome and wrench a confession out of him. It didn’t take long to realize that he’d never confess. I kept making money, and in the meantime, I started to buy up his debt. About eight years ago, I had enough of his debt that I could have made it difficult for him, but then his wife approached me at a party. I don’t think she remembered me or knew who I was. She just came up out of the blue and started telling me about how she volunteered at a women’s crisis hotline and how life changing it was. She asked if I would be interested in donating.”

“So she stayed your hand?”
“Yes. Every time I was in a position to do something to Howe, I’d see her at an event. She’d share her latest charitable activities with me. She was doing things that could have helped my mother. She would mention how much she missed my mother.” I clenched my fists in frustration. “Would Howe’s shame transfer to her? Would she feel the same as my own mother? I found I couldn’t act. And I felt sorry for her because Richard cheated on her regularly. She had to know about his infidelity. Discretion wasn’t important to him, although he rarely hunted in their social circles. He preferred the working class, like waitresses, models—which are often one and the same in the city. Women he viewed as disposable. Possibly worse, she loves him. Even now, after all these years, her eyes follow him across a room. Now that I have you, I recognize her longing even more acutely. How deeply devoted she is to him.”
“You thought that a scandal would separate her from him.”
“Yes, even if it would be painful, if I could decouple her from him before I struck, then I wouldn’t have her wounds on my conscience.” I shake my head. “I’ll think of something else.”
She presses her face close to my chest. I feel her trembling. “What is it?” I ask urgently.
“You’re amazing, Ian Kerr. Your compassion is inspiring. I don’t know if I could be that generous in the same situation.” She rains kisses on my shoulders and at the base of my neck.
“If you were another woman, I’d say you were buttering me up for something. But since you won’t even take what I’m willing to give you without argument, I’m going to have to ask: Are you on drugs? Because I distinctly remember you calling me an arrogant asshole more than once.”
“That was before I realized that you needed my help to correct your character flaws. I’m here now.”
“You’re like a missionary then, to save me from myself?” I’m only half joking.
“That’s right and from all the other women in New York City. I’m sacrificing myself on the altar of Ian Kerr’s pleasure in order to prevent heartbreak and sorrow across the city.”
“You deserve sainthood.” I pull her tight against me and kiss her in gratitude for driving away my moodiness.
“In honor of my impending deification, will you make love to me again?”
“Mmmm,” I murmur against her lips. “I’m sorry but no. You’re too swollen and tender.”
She draws away from me, although the circle of my arms doesn’t allow her to get far. “Are you feeling sick? Because I swear I heard you turn me down.”
“I’m not turning you down. I’m . . . delaying our gratification until later.”
“Delayed gratification is for suckers. I want you now.” She looks determined, but I get my way. Always.
I push her back and slide down her body until I’m kneeling between her legs. “I’ll take care of you, bunny.”
Softly, tenderly, as if she were a virgin, I stroke her delicate lips. Her clit slowly emerges, as if jealous of the attention given to her other body parts. I lick my thumb and rub it lightly across the tip.
“Ian,” she moans. My name on her lips in that breathy tone has the same effect as mainlining aphrodisiacs. My already-erect cock throbs in response. I’m starting to believe in soul mates and life in the hereafter, because one lifetime won’t be enough with Victoria Corielli.
Sliding my palms under her ass, I lift her to my mouth. I’m too horny right now to lick her slowly. I need to feel her orgasm all over my face, to have her thighs clench my head in a viselike grip, like nothing is ever going to separate the two of us.

I suck at her lips, separating the folds with my tongue. Placing my thumb—wet from her arousal—on her clit, I tease her with tongue and lips until her thighs are moving restlessly beside my head, bumping my ears.

The taste of her is making me wild. My cock is thick and hard and even the expensive sheets are chafing my sensitive skin. Inside her, my mental caveman grunts. Need inside her. I thrust into the sheets as I devour her.
“Oh shit, Ian.” The hand on my head tightens and my scalp begins to protest, but the pain brings a smile to my face. She’s getting there. It’s heaven down here. I could live here, her juices sustaining me for days. Opening my mouth wide, I engulf her. Every little crevice is explored and sucked until her whole body stiffens and arches in front of me. Her soft walls start to convulse, and her thighs tighten.
“That’s it, bunny. Just let go.” I lap at her, maintaining the rhythm that brought her to the peak. She pulses her hips against my fingers and mouth. I torture her with my lips, tongue, and fingers until she’s crying out my name and pulling and pushing against me at the same time. And then I hold her with fierce pride as she comes down off her orgasmic high.
“Have I told you that I love you?” she whispers and pulls me to her for a fierce kiss. Her teeth nip at mine and then our mouths are fused. For long moments, the only air that we breathe is through each other. Breaking away, she pants and presses soft kisses along my jaw and down my neck.
“Only once today.” I smooth her hair back. We’ve made a mess of it. The long strands are tangled and matted, but she’s never looked sexier. My gut tightens at the thought that others have seen her in this just-fucked state.
“What’s that look for?” she asks, smoothing a hand across my sweat-dampened skin.
“I’m a jealous fucker.” No one but me will ever get to see her this disheveled again.
“Are you just figuring that out, because it was pretty evident a few weeks ago when you dragged me out of the bar by my hair.”
“It was by your hand, but if you’re okay with the hair dragging, I can pull that off the next time we’re out.”
She pinches me lightly. “No, I’m not into the hair dragging thing. I’m not against a little hair pulling, though.”
“Is that right?” My tone is light, but her words have made my cock harder than marble.
“This can’t be comfortable.” Her hand dips down to stroke me and I shudder at the caress.
Comfortable? No. “It’ll go away if you ignore it,” I lie.
“I don’t want to ignore it. I want it inside me.”
I shake my head. “You’re too sore, bunny.” I rub a finger over her lips, shiny and plump from our kisses. “I’ll hurt you.”
“I’ll feel worse if you don’t,” she pleads.
Her gentle begging makes me even harder, and I feel a twinge of guilt that her helpless desire turns me on even more. A decent man wouldn’t feel good about hearing his woman beg. Hell, a decent man probably never refers to his companion as his woman. But since I raised myself from the age of thirteen, I’ve developed my own rules and my own code.
I want. I take. I keep.
Tiny belongs to me now, and I’m not letting her go. She’s mine to love and to care for.

© 2015 Jen Frederick



Taking Control

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