I just finished reading The Greatest Risk and I can't go to sleep until I write down how much I enjoyed this novel. I think it's my favorite in the Honey series and definitely on the list of KA favorites.
Stellan and Sixx/Simone are so equally matched that I can't pick a favorite between the two. Sixx/Simone is so stubborn and wounded and prickly and badass; she was fun to read because I knew she'd present a challenge to Stellan and that under all of that stubborn, wounded, prickly, badassery would be a kindness and warmth that would be worth every hard moment. I was right. She's awesome.
And Stellan? Gah. Is there a more perfect Kristen Ashley guy? I don't know? Maybe? But I can't even think of one because I'm in a Stellan induced fog. He's got it all--the exterior packaging is magnificent (at least in my mind's eye), of course, but it's the inside of him that makes him one of the best guys I think she's ever written. The way he communicates, the way he shows he cares, the way he reads people, acts on his concerns are all more than swoonworthy. I feel like he's the epitome of the new alphamale--he doesn't manhandle and trample to show his strength, he doesn't need to. I don't know how to explain it, without going on and on and on, so I'm going to suggest you read it RIGHT NOW.
In addition to Stellan and Sixx/Simone, I really enjoyed the secondary characters (Susan and M, especially, but later Maddox and D and Holly), the imagination behind the gift Stellan gave Sixx/Simone, and the little glimpses of Leigh and Evangeline that we got throughout this novel. As usual, when speaking of this series, I'll remind readers that this is the sexiest of sexy and if you're more of a fade to black kind of reader, this may not be the best novel for you (but dang, you'll be missing out on Stellan).
I feel like there are a few more novels yet to come in this series (fingers crossed!) and now that I'm fully entrenched in the lives of these characters, I can't wait to see who falls in love next!
A woman unable to connect, struggling to hide another part of her. A man burning to learn her truth, and make her whole. Through explosive passion and deep exploration, they are about to take the greatest risk of all. But will they be able to take that leap, and come out on the other side together? In this next passionate novel in the Honey series, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Ashley delivers a stunningly romantic and intensely sexy novel that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Present day …
Sixx wandered the halls of the Bee’s Honey for absolutely no purpose except to make the boys in the booth watching the cameras that monitored the action in the club think she was taking in the scene.
Instead, she was biding time to go into the Dom Lounge to get what she’d stashed in her locker.
She was over it.
Over the scene.
Over the wait.
The Honey had now become a place she could hang and have a drink, connect with some friends if she was in the mood, get some of her kink by watching, and torture herself being around Stellan.
It was also where she stashed something if she had it to stash. This was because the Honey had surveillance and security that rivaled that of the White House. If a person wasn’t supposed to be there, they didn’t get in there. The end.
She’d been back in Phoenix now for a while.
And although she’d put on a variety of shows, bided her time, put herself out there, made herself available, Stellan hadn’t thrown down the gauntlet.
She sure as hell wasn’t making the first move.
Thus that first move wasn’t going to be made.
So be it.
She hadn’t expected much and she sure got that.
And she had to admit, part of her was relieved (a large part).
Because if he took a shot, what then?
Could she protect him from all that was her?
More like impossible.
She never had with anyone who mattered, not that she’d had many in her life who mattered.
And Stellan absolutely did not deserve to have to deal with all that could befall anyone who got close to Sixx.
Tonight was different, though.
Tonight, she wanted done with the extracurricular activity she was engaged in.
Also tonight she roamed the halls knowing Stellan was there, he’d taken a room, and he’d gone off his normal modus operandi.
He’d selected a female sub.
He’d also selected a male.
If in a mood, though that mood was always rare, he’d pick more than one sub.
But they were always females.
Sixx had a feeling she knew why he’d done this. She had Google alerts set up, and she’d seen it.
That it being that it was announced to the media that day that the two-and-a-half-month marriage of Andreas Lange and his pretty-much-child bride Priscilla was done. Although the press was asked to leave the couple alone in this trying time, it was nevertheless reported that Andreas might often think with his dick and had apparent self-esteem issues that drove him to having a pretty young thing dripping off his arm, but when it counted, he used his other head. The one with an actual brain in it.
In other words, he had a reported ironclad prenuptial agreement, and the soon-to-be-again Ms. Newton would walk away with the engagement ring he gave her, any gifts she’d acquired during their relationship and nothing else.
Not even a settlement.
She was young, and Sixx knew that young didn’t make you stupid, it just made you young, naïve, and perhaps with the beauty that girl had, overconfident. Thus she probably thought her golden looks mingled with a twenty-two-year-old pussy would buy her a lot more time to get a lot more gifts.
Sadly, she’d been wrong.
Sixx could not know how this news affected Stellan. Although they had exchanged a variety of words since she’d been home, they’d both been at a few get-togethers where he didn’t avoid her, but he didn’t pursue her, they’d caught each other’s eyes on a number of occasions; and she’d noted him watching her work with her submissives, as he’d noted her doing the same with his, they had not even resurrected the loose but friendly relationship they’d had before she’d left.
She put it down to him still smarting from Leigh’s falling in love with another man.
That said, even if Leigh had, it appeared that not much had changed between Stellan and Amélie. Although chilly between them when Sixx got back, that had thawed, and they were as sociable and close as they ever had been. And it was clear Stellan liked Olly, Amélie’s enormous, gorgeous stallion.
Then again, everyone liked Olly. It was impossible not to like the guy. He was just that guy who had it all and not simply the fact he was so easy to look at.
He adored Leigh, for one. Utterly. And he did not hide it in the slightest.
But he was outgoing, funny, solid. If you were moving house and you needed an extra pair of hands, he was there. If you had a nephew (or niece) who wanted to be a firefighter (which Olly was), he’d take the kid through his station and introduce him to all the guys. If you were at a cookout with him and running low on your drink, you found your glass slid out of your hand and another one put in it without even having to ask.
Even Stellan, wanting Amélie for as long as he did, couldn’t dislike the guy.
So they’d become friends.
And Sixx had watched.
That was one of the two things she’d done since being back.
In a halfhearted attempt to get his attention (and keep Aryas off her back), she played.
And she watched.
Which was what she was on a mission to do now before she hit the Dom Lounge to prepare to complete her other mission.
As she wandered, Sixx didn’t spend time watching Mira and Trey in their room.
It was tough watching Mira work now that she had a sub and they were together together. In other words, in love. Mira was good at what she did, and Trey liked what his Mistress gave him, but that look of adoration on her face while she was doing it …
Sixx just couldn’t deal with it.
This was also why she avoided Leigh and Olly when they were at play (and more recently, also when they weren’t because the connection they had between them just didn’t stop).
Right then they weren’t in a playroom. They were still in the bar, holding court, The Stallion Alpha Sub King and his Dominatrix Queen, as usual reigning supreme over the club and enjoying it before they moved to a room to enjoy each other.
They were actually worse to watch than Trey and Mira, they were so beautiful together. They were like watching dancers, so perfectly in sync, expressive, at one with each other and their own bodies. The sequence practiced, even if it was always different, it was so graceful it was sublime.
Putting this out of her mind, Sixx moved on her black platform pumps to the back hall full of playrooms, noting, and not surprised, that Aryas’s red room was shuttered away from view. The blackout blinds to that room were scarlet, not black like all the others, thus its name.
It was his own personal playroom if he was in town. And he was. And he had one of his babies in there, working her.
Sixx didn’t need to watch that, although she would have. She’d not only seen Aryas at play, he’d worked her because he’d trained her. He showed her how to be who she was. He introduced her to other Dommes to teach her the things he could not. And he’d played with her in his sessions in which she was required to sub so she could understand the headspace her own subs had to get in to serve her.
She had been surprised she’d liked it.
She’d been freaked she’d liked it so much.
Aryas had handled that too for her—amazingly. Which meant he’d helped her handle it.
And then she’d locked it away.
However as she bypassed his room, she felt her lips thin that he was back there with one of his babies and not with the woman he should be with.
At first when Sixx arrived back in Phoenix, he’d let things lie.
Now that months had passed, he was getting up in her face about making a move on Stellan.
Fortunately, she was able to fight back since he wouldn’t make a move on Mistress Talia.
Which was where Sixx went and where she stopped to watch, also not surprised that Talia was working a sub mostly because those two circled each other just this way. If Talia took a sub and he caught it, Aryas wasn’t too far from taking his own. If Aryas took one and Talia caught it, she hustled a sub into a playroom.
As Sixx watched Talia work a sub named Bryan, definitely a favored and oft-used toy of hers, she got worried.
In a heartbeat, Bryan would take things further with his tall, slender, lithe, beautiful, mocha-skinned, tawny-fro’ed Mistress, and not just because he seriously got off on the way she worked him.
She wasn’t just beautiful and had a serious style going on in and out of a playroom. She was funny, quick-witted, smart-mouthed, loyal and very sweet. And Sixx had witnessed her aftercare of Bryan when she got down to serious business with him, and even knowing Talia’s heart was with Aryas, her head and attention was with Bryan in a way he could mistake the fact that he didn’t have a place in that particular vital organ.
Sixx considered having a word with the Mistress.
She did that, and then she decided instead to have a word with Leigh so Leigh would have a word. Amélie was probably already thinking of doing it. She wasn’t Queen Bee just because she rocked a playroom, and she took her unofficial role seriously.
But if Sixx had a word, she might light a fire, and perhaps if they double-teamed Aryas and Talia, they could get something going.
Before hitting the Dom Lounge, she found her feet taking her one last place.
At first, she positioned herself carefully in order to be able to process what she might see and at the same time be out of his line of sight because he always broke scene to catch her eyes if he saw her at the windows. And the possibility of seeing him working a male sub was something she wanted without him breaking scene.
This eye contact, at first, she’d found terrifying, because it was encouraging. It was rare a Dom working would do that unless he was working directly with another Dom.
When months passed and nothing came of it, Sixx stopped finding it terrifying or encouraging and just found it weird.
There was no invitation in his gaze. No challenge issued. No warmth or comradeship or humor or anything.
He’d just catch her gaze and hold it for as long as it took for her to break it. Even if he was physically inside one of his subs, he’d thrust while simply looking at Sixx, remote and disengaged, from her and his sub, until Sixx herself broke the contact and his attention went back to his sub.
But if he was working a male, especially inside one, this she’d want to see. Man-on-man was a thing of hers, and since she’d returned to Phoenix, she’d indulged in that, always taking multiple submissives, they were always male, and she’d call the shots to get that fix.
Seeing Stellan engaged in something like this would probably make her orgasm right there in the hall. Hell, just thinking about it got her wet.
Then again, although this would be an extraordinary sight to see, Sixx didn’t figure it would take much to do that. In all her play since she’d come back, she had not once let a single sub touch her, she’d rarely touched them, and she hadn’t had that first orgasm, not in play, not with some random partner she picked up out in the vanilla world (because she hadn’t picked anyone up), not even at her own hand.
But as she hesitated at the edge of one of the rooms Stellan favored, the silhouette and blackout blinds up like he normally played it, she didn’t even see Stellan.
The female was working the male, and that work was inspired, but there was no Stellan.
Sixx took one step along the hall.
And there he was, still in his trousers and dress shirt, but the suit jacket was thrown over the back of the leather club chair he was sitting in. He had his long legs crossed, and he was slanted to the side, elbow on the arm of the chair, head propped up in his hand where it held his square jaw at his knuckles with his forefinger extended along his chiseled cheek.
She drew in a breath at the bored expression on his arrestingly beautiful face, that expression running deep into his dark blue eyes.
He did not look annoyed, upset, or distracted, as news of his father acquiring then disposing of another wife in a matter of months might make him.
He didn’t look anything, certainly not like he was in a room where sweet and dirty sex acts were being performed at his command by the slaves he’d chosen for the evening.
He looked like he was in a meeting that he couldn’t wait to get out of.
Then suddenly, his gaze came to her.
He didn’t move, didn’t lift his head, just swept his eyes straight to her, not like he’d noticed her standing there, like he’d sensed she was there.
His expression didn’t change. Neither did his position.
He stared her right in the eyes, pinning her to the spot, giving her nothing except his regard.
She wanted to scream, Why? Why do you look at me like that? Why can’t you give me something? Anything?
She didn’t do that.
Of course not.
She accepted the only challenge he gave her and stared straight at him in return for as long as she could stand it.
And Sixx could stand a lot, so this lasted a long time, perhaps full minutes, before, as ever (and as ever wanting to kick her own ass), she broke the contact and walked slowly, and as casually as she could fake it, away.
Once out of sight of Stellan, she didn’t mess around going to the Dom Lounge.
There were cameras in there too, but she’d given herself a reason to return there after she had a drink in the hunting ground. This being so she could collect what she’d put there a week ago and be done with the job she was on so she could then collect the paycheck.
She did just this, going directly to her locker and grabbing the small, boxy, black python Alexander McQueen clutch with its four finger loops topped with various skulls or roses. A clutch she’d placed there after she’d arrived rather than giving it to reception, which was what most of the Dommes did.
Inside was a slim, business-card-sized wallet with her credit card, ID and a few banknotes, her phone, another phone that was hers-but-also-not, her lip liner and lipstick, her fabulous vintage compact with mother-of-pearl inlaid in black depicting cranes flying across a yellow moon, her Cayenne keyfob and nothing else.
With her back to the camera, she grabbed a random vibrator she had in her locker, twisted off the bottom where you’d put batteries, upended the flash drive she’d hidden there, and slid it in the lining of the clutch that she’d jimmied so she could open it, hide things behind it, and then press it back in place where it held.
She then went to the mirror.
At first, she didn’t look at herself, but instead used it to take in the plush surroundings of the Dominants’ Lounge.
Deep-seated, purple-velvet banquettes spanned the walls. They were covered in red-and silver-velvet toss pillows. The patterned silver wallpaper behind them was bottom-lit with soft light.
There were attractive steel tables with scented candles glowing on top of them.
The lockers were made of the same steel as the tables and looked like a bank of cabinets with a variety of digital locks, not lockers.
The gleaming black basins had no faucets, just wide, lush waterfalls that activated by motion. There were no paper towels, instead thick, soft, purple, red or silver hand towels and washcloths.
There were showers around the side, as well as a Jacuzzi tub, a steam room and a sauna.
Available for use was anything you could need. Disposable razors (for men and women) and shaving cream, aftershave, a variety of colognes and perfumes, hairspray, lotions, oils, deodorants, tampons, condoms, face moisturizer, bath soap and scrub, shampoo and conditioner.
Submissives were specifically disallowed there. The lounge was for downtime and Dom time outside any scene. If a sub needed to be cared for or it was part of the scene, you requested a room that had those amenities, and the Dom took care of that.
And Sixx longed to stretch out on those banquettes and close her eyes to the D. L. & Co. candles that smelled like vanilla, balsam and pepper, soothing and spicy, so very Aryas. So very the Honey.
God, she loved it there. It was like her home. It was the only place, outside being on a job, where she could be …
Not herself. She played a role there. No one knew who she was. Not really. (Except Aryas, or at least he knew more than everyone else.) Not even people she called friends.
So why did she love it there so much?
And why was her heart hurting that she wasn’t getting out of it what she needed anymore?
She looked at herself in the mirror.
“Because it’s safe,” she whispered to her reflection.
That was it.
And now it no longer felt as safe.
Because Stellan was there, and wanting him and not having him—but more, knowing she should never expose him to what it would mean to have her … hurt.
That didn’t make sense either. She’d wanted a lot in life.
And never got it.
But Stellan was different.
Stellan was …
Sixx shook off her thoughts and took herself in through the mirror.
She couldn’t see the black pumps or her long legs she’d sleeked not only by giving them a close shave all the way up to her pubis but also with a subtle oil that made them shine.
What she could see was the black leather micro-mini that sat tight on her hips, cupped her ass and had a wide black belt with a bold silver buckle.
Up top she wore a white leather modified camisole that had a deep plunging neckline that went to her midriff and spread wide at the sides, showing the inside curves of her smallish breasts. The straps were very thin. There was a tight band across her ribs. It was cropped but not by much, showing only a hint of flesh at her belly between camisole and skirt, depending on how she moved.
Her hair was short, clipped in a graduated bob at the nape of her neck, the champagne highlights in her dark cinnamon hair looking (she thought) great in the sweeping, long bangs that fell well past her eye, the sides of her hair hanging below her jaw, all the ends in messy flips.
She had to style it, which was a minus. But it was short so it didn’t take long, and it had a sex-bomb vibe, so that was a definite plus.
She looked into her wide, brown eyes and wondered, What next?
A weighty question because it wasn’t about what was next for her at the Honey.
But what was next for her with everything.
At Aryas’s appeal (which meant repeated demands), she’d given up “the job.”
As far as he knew, Sixx had gone legit, working as the internal investigator for a large local law firm.
However, directly due to Aryas’s interference in some of his other friend’s lives, a need had arisen in Phoenix when Branch Dillinger stopped doing what he did out there and became the operations manager for all of the Bee’s Honeys.
Nature abhorred a vacuum.
Cue Sixx stepping in because first, her pay at the law firm was good, if you weren’t used to making a lot more doing a lot more dangerous shit for a lot more dangerous people. And second, if you were used to doing a lot more dangerous shit for a lot more dangerous people, as well as used to the adrenaline rush that got you, it wasn’t an easy habit to break.
So she had a proper job, not a normal one, but one that included a 401K and a bi-weekly paycheck that gave her insurance benefits.
And on occasion, she moonlit on the side.
Aryas didn’t know.
No one knew (except her friend and sometimes partner, Sylvie Creed, and her husband, Tucker, who she and Sylvie sometimes had to call in to help. But Sylvie wasn’t in the life Sixx pretended to lead through her play and relationships at the Honey).
Even if Sixx got off on it, and the cash she accumulated doing it, not to mention the freedom that offered, she knew she couldn’t do it forever. She had the scars to prove that particular story you told yourself to stay on the job was a lie.
But what would she have if she stopped?
The kink was getting boring. There were only so many orders you could give that led—perhaps in a lengthy way, but nonetheless the end was always the same—to someone else’s orgasm.
It had lost its appeal.
Because she wasn’t connecting.
She used to connect.
She used to stay mostly silent, watch, listen, open herself to being acutely aware of every expression or even twitch of the skin to sense what her sub wanted … then she’d find some elaborate or creative but always hard-earned way to give it to him.
Now she didn’t even have that.
Anyone could give their own self an orgasm. It was her job as a Dominatrix, regardless if the emotion wasn’t there, the attention and the respect and the motivation and the deliberation had to be there to connect. Somehow. Some way.
That was gone.
So what was the point?
To yank herself out of thoughts that were going nowhere, even though her long-lasting lipstick was doing its job, she still opened her clutch, pulled out the liner and lipstick, refreshed the ruby red, ended it with a nice coat of clear gloss, and dropped the stuff back in her bag.
She then grabbed her phone—not her actual phone, the other one—before she clicked the clutch closed and made her way out of the lounge, deciding to have a drink while she dealt with the details of finishing up her final mission of the evening.
She wandered the halls, doing it avoiding having to walk past Stellan’s room, and hit the hunting ground.
The back corner booth was open, so she went there, flipped open the burner phone in her hand, set it to silent and then used her thumb in the onerous task of hitting the numbers on the pad repeatedly to get to the letters she needed to send the short text.
Really, smartphones were a gift from God.
The drop happens tonight.
She tucked the phone by her thigh when a server came, and she decided cool-but-luxe Sixx, Mistress with the Mostest, was fucking dead.
It was over.
No rep to uphold.
No bullshit to convey.
She was over that too.
She wasn’t going to sip from a glass of wine, withholding any personality, any hint of what made her, what defined her, that she might convey through the simple matter of ordering her preferred drink.
“Gordon’s cup. Hendrick’s,” she ordered.
“Gotcha,” the server said then moved away.
She looked to the hunting ground and saw subs avoiding her eyes but still preening in view, hoping she was there to make a selection.
God, she was dried up. Not even a tingle.
The only time she’d felt anything in—Lord, it had been days—was when Stellan’s eyes met hers earlier through the windows to his playroom.
And those days had been the days since she was last at the Honey and Stellan had turned his attention to her.
She looked down to her thigh, flipping open the phone to see no return text, and muttered under her breath, “I’m a fucking mess.”
“Sorry, didn’t catch that.”
Her head snapped up just in time to watch Stellan, back in his suit jacket and definitely out of his playroom, slide in the booth across from her.
God, he was gorgeous.
What the fuck?
“You were saying?” he prompted.
She flipped the phone shut and tucked it against her thigh so she’d feel it vibrate when the text came in.
“I have something on my mind,” she shared, not knowing what to make of this, him in the booth opposite her, making an approach, sitting there looking magnificent but still inaccessible, speaking directly to her with only her there to speak to.
“And that would be?” he asked.
“It’s work,” she told him.
“Ah,” he murmured, glancing to the side and looking up when the server set her drink in front of her. An action he oddly watched with what appeared to be rather avid fascination as the old-fashioned glass came to rest on the burgundy cocktail napkin. “Scotch, please,” he ordered before the guy could ask.
“On it,” the server said and moved away.
Stellan didn’t watch him go and it took a good deal, Sixx didn’t look away when Stellan’s attention came back to her.
“Not in the mood tonight?” he queried.
She shook her head, lifted her drink, and took a sip.
When she put it down, she verbalized that same response. “No.”
“Hmm,” he murmured, and there it was.
There it was.
That “hmm” was almost like a purr, and that purr snaked right up her pussy, an area that instantly got wet.
“You’re finished early,” she noted.
He gave a one shoulder shrug that managed to be masculine and elegant at the same time, something only Stellan could pull off.
“I thought I’d try something new.”
“And?” she asked.
“It wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.”
“Too bad,” she murmured, taking another sip of her drink.
“Is it?” he returned, and her gaze lifted to his, because he’d asked a question but mostly because that question was strange.
“For you, and them, of course it is,” she replied.
“They got a good deal out of it, I assume, unless she faked it, which is doubtful. He, however, couldn’t fake it as the evidence he left was physical.”
Perhaps she shouldn’t have left so soon. It would undoubtedly have been interesting to watch Stellan orchestrate something like that.
“Unusual for you to choose a male,” she remarked.
He turned his head to the hunting ground and remarked, “An experiment I’m unlikely to repeat.”
She gave it some time, and this was mostly because she was arrested in the act of taking in the beauty of his profile. The cut line of his strong jaw. The angle of his cheekbone. The shadowed hollow under it. The fine lines that fanned from the corner of his eye. The straight slope of his nose. And, Lord God … that remarkable swell of his lower lip.
When she realized another second and she’d start squirming in the booth, she spoke.
“It might be more enjoyable if you went hands on,” she suggested.
He looked back to her and more wet surged between her legs at the expression on his face and what was emanating from his eyes.
“If I fancy ass, it comes with breasts and a vagina or not at all.”
Sixx would take him up her ass, deep, hard, fast, soft, slow, gentle, any way he liked it.
She’d beg him for that.
On that thought, her salivary glands went into overdrive, and she lifted her drink, tipping it to him in salute, before she brought it to her mouth but didn’t take a drink.
“Too bad,” she murmured.
Then she sipped.
His lips, including that luscious bottom one, curled up slightly at the ends.
“Mistress Sixx,” he said softly. “If she had it her way, they’d be lined up by the score and fucked raw, climaxing at her command at the tip of her whip.”
She stared at him, her stomach feeling like it was cramping, but her voice sounded even when she asked, “You say that like there’s something wrong with it.”
“Of course there isn’t,” he drawled, totally and openly lying.
I’d make you like it, she said in her head. I’d make you beg for it. I’d break my back, sell my soul, do anything I’d need to do to make you come harder than you’ve ever come before, tying you to me, connecting you to me, making you never want to leave.
He held her gaze, his face arrogant and knowing.
Or I’d give it to you, her mind whispered. Anything you wanted, anything you’d want to do to me to give you what you needed in a way that need could never be eased and you’d always come back for more.
He kept holding her gaze, but in the dim light of the bar of the Bee’s Honey, she could swear she saw something in his expression grow soft, like he could read her thoughts.
Before she could get a lock on it, or better, turn from him so he couldn’t read anything further, for once he looked away first, but only because the server was there, placing his lowball of Scotch over ice in front of him.
Sixx picked up her drink, looked to the hunting ground, and took a healthy sip.
“Are you staying?”
Stellan’s question brought her attention again to him.
She put her drink down and asked, “Pardon?”
“In Phoenix,” he explained. “I know you travel for work and it takes you away for long periods of time. But this time, you’ve been back for a while, so it seems like you’re staying.”
She had been intending to stay.
Now she didn’t know.
“For a while,” she replied.
He nodded, sipping his drink, and then stated, “I’ve been meaning to invite you, simply haven’t had the chance. But I’m having a party next weekend. We’ve hit June, and the weather hasn’t yet started baking. I’m taking advantage. We’ll start with a pool party, then everyone can change and we’ll move in for dinner. I’d be delighted if you’d come.”
She hid her reaction to that by throwing back more gin.
“Leigh and Olly will be there,” Stellan went on, back to his gaze set unwavering on her. “Mira and Trey. Felicia’s bringing a couple of her toys. Penn and Shane will be there. Victor has a new slave he’s enjoying so he’s bringing her. In other words, it’s a play party, just to make that clear. Though, depending on how it goes, we’ll make things more sociable and less structured for dinner. That will be up to the Dom.”
When he hesitated, she nodded, indicating she’d heard and taken this in, and he kept speaking.
“Belle’s bringing Tiffany. Talia is bringing Bryan. Aryas will be out of town, as will Evangeline’s partner, but Evangeline will be there in her usual capacity. Observation only.”
It was an unwritten rule when referring to the Honey’s Domme Evangeline’s “partner”—who was really her boyfriend who was essentially living with her—at least in the confines of the walls of the club, people did not use his name.
But he was Branch Dillinger. Her partner. Her boyfriend. Her sub. But he was also the Honey’s new top guy, since Aryas had taken a step back from operations in order to focus on opening his new club in Tahoe, and he needed someone he could trust to pick up the reins.
And if Branch played it that way, wishing things to be private, he got it that way, and would even if the man couldn’t probably snap your neck with his bare hands then walk away and not give that kill a second thought.
It was just the life and everyone obeyed that rule.
Though the threat of having your neck snapped worked too.
Sixx was just relieved Evangeline was back, not to mention ecstatic she had a man in her life like Branch. Especially after what was done to her to make her take a prolonged break, all of this happening when Sixx was away.
It was good it happened when she was away. If she was close, retaliation would have been much different than what Aryas had ordered, and even much different than the vastly more thorough way in which Branch had handled it.
But it was handled. So at Aryas’s firm request, she’d let it be.
She was relieved and ecstatic for Leenie … and also jealous.
Jealous because she wondered what it would feel like to have a miracle happen after the world as you knew it turned to complete shit and then one day … you might not be healed, but you were again whole.
“And if you like, I’ll have a couple of male slaves available for your use. Fresh meat. I know a few who’d volunteer that I’m sure you’d like,” Stellan continued.
And that stomach cramp got worse.
He’d provide her “a few volunteers.”
And damned disappointing.
She wondered who he’d have there.
And how many.
“I’ll think about it,” she told him.
“Please do,” he said before taking another sip of his Scotch.
She followed suit with her gin, practically willing her phone to vibrate against her leg to give her a reason to get away from him.
Stellan spoke again.
“So you’re not in the mood, will you allow me to offer you something that might strike a different mood? One I’d wager you’d enjoy a great deal.”
At this proposal that came out of nowhere, Sixx almost choked on her gin.
But of course she didn’t, and again her voice was clear and cool when she asked, “What’s that?”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid it has to be a surprise. But I will say it will be a surprise you’ll like. I also have to say, you shouldn’t wait to make your decision or things will culminate and we’ll miss our chance.”
Things will culminate?
She was intrigued.
“Can you give me a hint?” she pressed.
He made a tsking noise that she felt tap against her clit, and as was his usual, he didn’t lose contact with her gaze.
But he wasn’t looking aloof anymore.
This was both an invitation and a challenge.
She just didn’t know to what.
And with Stellan—this sudden Stellan who was vastly different than the Stellan she’d been getting (or not, as the case was) for the last too-many-months—she wasn’t sure how to handle it.
“Don’t disappoint me, Sixx,” he said quietly. “The Honey’s Ice Princess, cool and composed in every situation, shying away from an adventure?”
“I simply need to know how long it would take,” she lied. “I have something I need to do tonight,” she didn’t lie.
“As soon as you need to go, I’ll bring you back.”
He’d bring her back?
He was going to take her somewhere?
“What’s it going to be, Sixx?” he pushed. “In truth, I should have asked you the minute I joined you in this booth. We risk missing the grand finale the longer we wait.”
“Stellan—” she started, wondering how to get out of it at the same time how not to appear like she was jumping on it by accepting too quickly.
She needed time to assess this change, plan, strategize, prepare, fashion a brand-new Sixx. One who could deal with the likes of Stellan Lange and come out the other side of whatever became of whatever was happening unscathed.
And more importantly, make certain he did.
Or time to find a place to hide. Or escape, her mind taunted. Coward.
“I’ve bought you a present,” he shocked her by announcing. “I did this some time ago. I’ve been wishing to give it to you but haven’t had the opportunity. Now’s the opportunity.” The movement was almost not there, but yet it was when he leaned slightly her way and warned in a low voice, “Don’t waste it.”
Again, eye contact, unrelenting.
And a gift?
She lifted her drink, took another healthy swallow, put it on the table and then dropped her hand to her thigh to curl her fingers around the phone there while grabbing her clutch off the table with her other hand.
She looked back to him and said, “Let’s go.”
When she did, all vestiges of her stomach cramps disappeared.
Because when she said that, Stellan Lange smiled a wicked, roguish, beautiful smile.
Right at her.
Copyright © 2018 by Kristen Ashley in The Greatest Risk and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Griffin.
Kristen Ashley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels, including Mystery Man, The Gamble, and Own the Wind. She grew up in Indiana, but has lived in Colorado and the West Country of England.
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