The Marriage Merger

By: Jennifer Probst

Chapter Nine


Sawyer held her tight in his embrace and studied her face. Sweat matted the hair clinging to her forehead and cheeks. Breath rushed in and out of her swollen lips.

With softly glowing skin and her long lashes gleaming with unshed tears, she reminded him of a sleeping princess wait-ing for her prince. A very well-fucked, satisfied princess.

His cock stirred.

What had happened?

Usually, he was always in complete control during a scene. He locked away his physical needs and concentrated on what his lovers needed from him. He had no problems holding back, no matter how sweetly they begged or ca-joled or promised. He allowed release for both of them on his terms, keeping his emotions secondary.

Not with Julietta. From the moment he touched her, he struggled to remain neutral. Her pleasure stoked his, but never had he craved to dig deeper, looking to strip her both physically and emotionally for his own claim. He never doubted she could orgasm. The idiot men before her de-served to be whipped for the junk they put in her head. No, he knew she needed a man to allow her to surrender and let her body rule that powerful brain. Sawyer had an instinct that she owned the soul of a bedroom submissive, just begging for someone to dominate and take control of her body.

It was the other parts that wrecked him.

The way she gave herself to him during climax. The sweet cries on her lips as she begged him to take her. The trust and bravery for allowing him to restrain her the first night together. The way her body lit up under his and snugly wrapped around his cock as if he belonged between her thighs.

She overshadowed every woman before her. Like a drug, he craved his next hit, though he just spilled his seed moments ago. He ached to take her again and again, bound her to his bed, and keep her there until she admitted that’s where she wanted to be.

He expected a crash of emotion after such intensity. He usually took specific steps to contradict the crash—a blan-ket, a bottle of water, some soothing words and a comfort-ing embrace. But the moment he spotted her tears, and her inner fury at such a weakness, he only longed to hold her close. rock her, kiss away her tears, and keep her with him.

Definitely not his normal reaction.

The delicious scent of coconut and musk and sex hit his nostrils. Under the lure of orgasm, he’d made her agree to another night. Why would he do that? The voice whispered the truth, and icy fear trickled down his spine.

Because he didn’t want to lose her.

Already, after a few hours, he was hooked on Julietta Conte. Fascinated by her honesty and strength and vulner-ability, he only wanted more. of course, it was impossible.

Working together, yes. Perhaps an affair for a limited time with both of them clear on the outcome. Long term?

Never.

The chill deepened. While she’d grown up in a loving household, he’d fought with fists and knives and wits to keep his belly full. His escape from two previous homes after his parents died pegged him as a problem child in the system. especially because of his age—nine was the beginning of the no-touch number. Foster families and parents wanted babies, or toddlers, or even that cute seven-year-old who had a shot at normalcy. eleven was hormones and messiness and smart-ass remarks. He knew the moment he walked into his third foster home it would be different.

There was a layer of fear he scented in the air, and the man with the beefy fists, ruddy features, and bloated belly held an element of mean. The social worker hadn’t given a shit.

And once he was placed with his new family, the rules were clearly laid out, beginning with a beating with a belt on his bare back.

Strike. No running away. They needed the money.

Strike. No causing trouble.

Strike. No interference with disciplining the other kids.

Strike. one meal per day. Stealing any more would mean consequences.

Strike. No telling. Anyone. ever. Penalty?

Strike.

The worst nightmare he could think of.

Dickhead threw him a towel to wipe off the blood, then made him replace his T-shirt. He remembered the raw skin sticking to the material and how with each step he battled nausea and passing out. He also knew it would set the tone for the future. If he failed, Dickhead would come after him on a daily basis. Strength and control were keys to survival.

After day one of hell began, he endured for years, until he turned eighteen and finally escaped.

And realized by saving himself he had killed another.

His foster brother.

“Hey.”

He blinked away the memory and smiled. Her husky voice was sexy as hell, and a faint blush stained her cheekbones. Adorable. His erection pressed against her thigh and her eyes widened.

“Hey.” He ran a knuckle down her heated skin. “How do you feel?”

“Good.” She rolled her eyes in self mockery. “That’s a lie. I feel incredible. Like gooey caramel—all warm and melty.”

His cock twitched. That was exactly how she felt when he slid into her—cloaking him in rich clingy heat. He thought about tumbling her back for one more orgasm but knew she had to be sore. Time to take care of her comfort needs first. “There’s a Turkish bath and steam shower in the bathroom. I’m going to start the water for you.” He pressed a kiss to her temple, then slid out of bed and padded naked to the connecting bathroom. The huge glass shower doors were framed in rich gold, and the walls boasted an elabo-rate mosaic of earth tones. Steam hissed from the walls and formed a thick cloud. He pulled onto another knob and warm water sprayed from the ceiling onto slate tiles and the specially carved matching bench. He laid out some snowy white towels and the hotel robes, then made his way back to the bedroom.

Humor twisted his lips. She sat on the edge of the bed, wrapped like a mummy in the sheets. Her face reflected a blend of shyness and aggravation. She’d soon remember who was in charge and lose some of her innate inhibitions.

Crossing one ankle over the other, he leaned against the door. “Shower’s ready.”

Her gaze flicked over his fully erect dick and nakedness.

Her teeth pulled at her lip, then she stood up in a flash, shoulders back, dark eyes gleaming with stubbornness. She marched across the room like the Queen of Sheba with the sheets trailing behind her. Hesitating when she got close, he refused to move aside, wondering what she’d do.

With a haughty sniff, she stalked past him, dropped the sheet, and stepped into the shower. The doors closed with a relieved click and he bit back the urge to laugh out loud.

His queen would soon realize there was no hiding from him. Anywhere.

He allowed her a few minutes of privacy as he went back to the main suite area and poured glasses of water.

Loading them on a tray with some crackers, cheese, and veggies, he placed it on the table next to the lounge chair.

He added two flutes of fizzy champagne and headed to the shower.

The expression on her face when he opened the doors and stepped in was priceless. Trying to look dignified with her hair wet and a deliciously naked body on display, she did a half turn, trying to hide her embarrassment. Sawyer was looking forward to blowing past every social nicety she ever had about sex. Including bathing together and what he could do with a shower nozzle.

His lips quirked. “Need some help?”

“No, thank you.”

This time he laughed. Grabbed the loofah sponge she held in a death grip, and poured some gel into his hands.

“Too bad.”

With nothing to hold, she mustered enough courage to snort and turn her back on him, obviously picking the least embarrassing position. Her gorgeous ass and grace-fully curving spine only made him thank God he was a man. There was nothing as sensual as a woman’s rear, and Julietta’s lean length and soft skin were made for his hands.

He stepped in and pulled her hips back to rest against him.

She sucked in her breath.

“I can wash myself.” Her body stiffened. “In fact, I’m all done, so if you will excuse me. . . .”

“Have you ever showered with a man before?” He dragged the soapy sponge over her breasts.

“of course.”

“Liar.” He dipped down, making wide circles over her belly, hips, and upper thighs. His cock throbbed in the notch between her thighs. “I’m glad you haven’t. I like showing you things for the first time.”

The temperature dropped a few degrees. every muscle tensed. “I’m not an inexperienced virgin, Sawyer,” she said coolly. “And I’m no charity case.”

He spun her around and grabbed her long, wet hair. She gasped, bringing her hands up to his chest in a halfhearted attempt to push him away. He dragged her head back and loomed over her. “Don’t ever say something like that to me again.” Temper bit his tone. “you’re a passionate, beautiful woman who had the unfortunate experience of meeting a bunch of assholes who wouldn’t know how to find their own dicks in the dark. your comment insults both of us.”

Her pupils dilated with a touch of fear that soon changed to lust. He eased his grip, noting her ragged breathing and stabbing nipples. oh, yeah. His bossy woman liked a man telling her what to do in the privacy of the bedroom. Sawyer lowered his head and spoke against her swollen lips. “Maybe I need to keep this mouth occupied as much as your brain.”

He crushed her lips under his, drinking in her taste and essence and conquering her mouth. each stroke of his tongue reminded her she belonged to him in every capacity.

She gave it all back. He groaned under her sweet surrender, her own thrusting tongue tangling with his. She grabbed onto his slick shoulders and hung on while Sawyer pressed her against his chest and dipped her back to keep her slightly off balance. When she was soft and pliable, he slowly tipped her face up and broke the kiss.

Her gorgeous dark eyes gleamed with a swirl of naked emotions. He let her process for a moment, expecting her to beat a hasty retreat he intended to halt.

“I feel stupid.”

Surprise made him draw back. “Why, baby?”

She squeezed her eyes shut and reached for courage.

“I’m thirty-two years old and I’ve never done this—this stuff before. I don’t know the proper way to be.”

Her honesty shook him. Something deep inside flamed to life in demand, but he didn’t recognize the emotion so he pushed it back down. She was a child-woman with more courage than most men he’d met.

Sawyer pulled her to him and rested his forehead against hers. He lifted her hands and pressed a kiss to both palms. “you don’t have to be any certain way. your only job is to feel and not worry about anything. I’ll take care of you.”

She shuddered. A bolt of need shot through him like a stray bullet tearing through vulnerable flesh. He didn’t know how to process the intensity, so he focused on the naked woman in his arms and what he could do to please her. This time, when he began the soapy trail over her skin, she allowed him full access. A rumble of pleasure purred from her throat as he washed every inch of her, using a gentle rotating motion that soothed and aroused. Her nipples were treated to the rough side of the loofah, and they peaked with interest, turning a beautiful ruby red that matched her Snow White lips.

He dropped to his knees. Her body was created to be lost in—from her endless length of leg and thigh, to the perfect patch of dark hair that masked her sex, down to her scarlet toes. He cleansed her with a tenderness he’d never experienced with another woman, urging her to part her legs for him.

With a hiss of breath, she obeyed.

Her arousal elicited a primitive rush of victory, her pink inner lips glistening from water and her own moisture. He pressed the sponge to her mound and rubbed, making sure to work back and forth in a light rhythm. She arched her back and moaned; her breasts thrust forward like a pretty present. God, he should give her a rest, but he’d already gone too far to stop. He had to make her come again, feel her splinter apart around him and surrender to what he did to her.

“Turn around.”

Her pause gave him what he needed. He slapped her ass with one hard strike. She jerked in reaction, her eyes wide with outrage. Sawyer looked beyond and waited.

yes. Her nipples tightened further and the pulse at her neck beat rapidly. He bet an erotic spanking would give her intense pleasure, but he needed to be sure it was something that didn’t scare or horrify her. A frown snapped her brow, but he stared right back and repeated the command. “Turn around. Now.”

She did. The lush curve of her buttocks was a beautiful flushed pink from the steam and his hand. Sawyer started at her heels and worked his way up, lingering on the backs of her thighs; hips, her lower back. He straightened and dragged the sponge over her shoulders, tickling the nape of her neck, switching back and forth from the smooth to rough side so she was constantly kept off balance. The slight tremble in her legs and the tension in her muscles told him she was ready.

He sank to his knees. Urged her legs farther apart. And pressed the loofah against her pussy.

She shook and tried to remain still, but he kept the tor-ture up by sliding the coarse side over her sensitive clit at the same time he bit the luscious arc of her ass.

Her hands reached out to grab onto something and found the granite wall. The steam and heated spray drenched them and only added to the eroticism. Sawyer growled low in his throat, dying for more. He spread her cheeks wide and ran his tongue along her dripping slit at the same time he rotated the loofah against her clit.

She screamed as the orgasm hit hard and long. He never paused, lengthening her pleasure as her cries mingled with the hiss of steam and his tongue licked without pause. Finally, she shuddered and sagged against the wall. Sawyer rose and pulled her against him. He pressed his lips to her temple and stroked her back. Mini convulsions shook through her and she snuggled against him as if she had found her home.

“yeah, you’re a real charity case,” he grumbled, trying to get his head back in the game and distract himself from his raging hard-on. Her husky laugh raked across his ears in a caress.

“And you’re a bully.”

“Never.”

“Sei un maniaco sessuale. ”

He lifted his brow. “Trust me. If I do my job correctly, you’ll be a sex maniac also.”

A cloud drifted over her face, and she tipped her chin up to look at him. “Am I a job, Sawyer?”

Her honest question demanded more from him than ever before. He pushed past the discomfort and answered.

“No.” The next words dried up and he was glad. He wasn’t ready for anything more.

Her features eased into relaxation and a teasing smile played about her lips. “Good. Now, what about you?”

He glanced down at his stiff member and shrugged.

“Forgot the condom while we played water sports. No big deal.”

“you really think I’m mouthy?”

He tugged on a wet strand of hair. “Hell, yes.”

“Then maybe I should do something to keep myself occupied.”

He had no clue until she knelt in front of him with a ballerina’s grace that took his breath away. Sawyer reached out to stop her—the night was not about him—but the moment her lips opened and slipped over his pulsing length, he was a goner. He swore he’d only allow her to experiment until she felt comfortable, knowing Julietta was unsure of her skills and needed to learn to trust her instincts. The lesson turned on him in a heartbeat. With long, deft strokes, she sucked and licked with a heady enthusiasm and purity that left him helpless to fight. Using her hands to fist his dick and pump up and down, she continued her ministra-tions until he exploded, the orgasm diving deep and radiat-ing through every pore in his skin.

When the room stopped spinning, the little minx rose to her feet. Tossed him a purely feminine, purely satisfied grin.

And walked out of the shower, her naked buttocks winking at him in sheer mockery.

oh, hell, he was in trouble.

Big trouble.

He shook his head, shut off the water, and followed her out.



Who would’ve thought the ice queen had turned into raging Nympho?

Julietta wrapped the terry robe around her. Her muscles were limp noodles and an inner peace radiated from within. Was this what great sex did to a woman? Turned her brain to mush and plastered a stupid smile on her face?

This was dangerous in real life. No wonder women acted like fools under a man’s spell. Sawyer only had to crook his finger and she fell to her knees. Happily.

oddly, her reaction didn’t bother her as much as before.

Maybe she was so sexed out no worries were able to pen-etrate any brain cells. Tomorrow she’d probably wake up in a full-fledged panic attack. Maybe.

Maybe not.

Julietta watched him stalk out of the shower. He wore a relaxed expression and finally owned a limp dick. Not for long, she bet. The man was a sexual dynamo, and for a little while, he belonged only to her.

The possessive thought threw her off for a moment, but she refused to analyze it. Sawyer grabbed a towel, wrapped it around his waist, and turned.

She gasped.

His back and upper buttocks were a mass of crisscrossed scars, some faded, some red and angry. There seemed to be no logic to the marks. Perfectly formed circles marred his biceps. He froze in place, as if he had forgotten his original plan to hide his nakedness from her. Julietta flicked back to the evening. He had kept his shirt on until the last moment on the bed. And he never presented his rear to her—only his front.

Her throat tightened. Why did this seem different from the scar on his face? As if he didn’t care who saw that public mark. A tattoo that gave him flavor and a bad-boy de-meanor. But these hidden scars were so much more. She sensed these were the ones he hid from the world, a secret, deeper pain no one suspected. Pain he refused to share or explain.

The rational woman inside knew the proper response.

Be cool. Ignore the marks, pretend she didn’t care, and move on. A woman engaged in a one-night stand obeyed the rules—no attachments or emotion or sharing painful pasts.

Just pleasure, orgasms, alcohol, and a hasty retreat at dawn.

She struggled to be that woman, but silly tears threat-ened to fall. The idea of the strong man before her being helpless and hurt by nameless people tore her soul. She moved toward him and laid her hands gently on his back.

Sawyer flinched. With light strokes, she caressed and traced every scar over the broad expanse of flesh. He never moved.

Didn’t speak. Finally, she broke the silence.

“I’m sorry someone hurt you.” Julietta made sure no pity leaked into her voice. No one could possibly pity a man who exhibited such strength and character and success.

Perhaps the scars drove him to be better. She refused to cluck over him and ask a million questions, but she would never pretend she didn’t see what someone or many had done to him. “I’m glad you won.”

He bent his head. Sucked in a ragged breath. And spoke.

“I never talk about my past, Julietta. I lived in it far too long and fought too hard to leave it behind. He was evil, and I was stuck with him for too many years. He tried to beat everything out of me, but I refused to give him that final satisfaction.” His voice took on the demons of a past she couldn’t even imagine. “I’ve done—things. I won’t apologize for them either. I understand if you can’t handle that right now or choose to leave. I’ll release you from the contract.”

She gazed at the back of the man who had commanded her orgasms and made her feel like a woman for the first time in her life. Throughout the hours, he’d never taken but had freely given and pushed her boundaries. He made her feel safe. yet he actually believed she was so fragile she’d run at the sight of a few scars or his admission he’d made some bad choices?

Julietta pressed her lips to his back. He tensed under-neath the caress, but she kissed each scar with a gentle humbleness she ached to show. “Che idiota! How dare you insult me with such a comment? Whatever things you had to do you did to survive. Do you really think so little of me to believe I’d run from a few physical scars after the greatest sex of my life?”

He turned and faced her. Gaze wary, he studied her expression. She cursed the telltale dampness on her cheeks and realized she’d never be good at this stuff.

Sawyer reached out and ran his thumb over her face.

“Are you crying?”

His stunned tone lit her temper. “I’m not crying for the man you are,” she bit out. “I’m crying for the boy who never had anyone to care.” Julietta let her anger dry up her tears.

“I hope he is dead. I hope whoever put his hands on you died in a horrible, painful way.”

A raw longing burned from amber eyes. His fingers traced the curve of her cheek as if she was a fairy about to disappear into the mist. Slowly, he pulled back, and Julietta caught the tremor in his hand. He opened his mouth, but before the words left his lips, Sawyer bit them back. His lower lip quirked in that sexy half smile that tripped her heart. “Calling me an idiot again, huh?”

She sniffed. “That’s how you’re acting.”

He chuckled. “Such violence tucked beneath polite civility. remind me never get on your bad side, baby.”

“I have no civility when someone hurts one of my own.”

Sawyer stilled. The words had slipped out before she’d had an opportunity to censor herself. Mio Dio, what had she done? He didn’t belong to her. Never would. This was a contract—pure and simple—and though they had extended it to one more night, there was no relationship possible.

Was there?

An array of emotions flickered over his face. His voice came out rough and gravelly. “I believe you. The man you choose as your own is one lucky son of a bitch.” He cleared his throat and the crackling tension eased. “Come with me.

you must be hungry.”

He intertwined her fingers with his and led her back to the bedroom. They feasted on crisp crackers, creamy cheese, and sweet peppers, washing it down first with water and then champagne. Sawyer lifted her feet into his lap and massaged the tender insteps, sore from the high heels. Surprised she didn’t feel awkward after the various intimate encounters, Julietta relaxed into conversation about work, then chatted about her upbringing with a protective older brother.

Swirling the golden liquid in the delicate flute, she broached her next question with care. “How long have you known Wolfe?”

His fingers paused. “About a year.” She fought a groan as he kneaded the tight muscles in her hamstrings. “I never thanked you for giving him a chance. Most see his appearance and believe he’s useless.”

“you’d never hire an employee who didn’t own incredible skills. especially with Purity. He told me a little bit about his past.”

Sawyer gave a half laugh. “yeah, he told you he came from a tattoo parlor, didn’t he? Tells everyone that story.

Wolfe doesn’t talk about his real past.”

“He said you kept him from jail and took him in. Gave him a chance to prove himself.”

He looked up in surprise. “I can’t believe it. He never— he never shares.”

Julietta smiled. “He admires you. Hides it behind a smart-ass attitude. He’s got some incredible business skills for someone so young. No wonder you brought him to Italy.”

Sawyer shook his head as if trying to clear it. “yeah, he’s a smart kid. Got lost in the foster system and was trying to make it on his own in the streets. I caught him trying to pickpocket me, and I gave him a choice. Jail or an internship at my company.” A flash of pain lit his eyes. “The first few months he gave me so much shit I was tempted to throw him out. But he was so damn smart it was eerie. He has a photographic memory and knows how to talk to people once he gets over his initial insecurity. every time I gave him a task, he finished it before my regularly paid employees.” Sawyer shrugged. “So I kept increasing his workload, paid him a salary, and waited for him to run. He hasn’t yet.”

“you care about him.”

He flinched and pulled his hands from her leg. Her skin cooled as fast as his tone. “This has nothing to do with emotion. I decided to bring him with me to test his skills. He listened to that rosetta Stone thing and learned the language in record time. But if he fails, I’ll let him go.”

Julietta studied the man before her. odd, he was able to give so much in the bedroom, but normal relationships seemed impossible for him to accept. Sawyer was lying.

He obviously cared more about Wolfe than he was ready to admit. Probably had no clue how to deal with a broken teenager, and Julietta suspected they shared a similar past.

But this wasn’t the time or place to push.

“Understood. After all, business is business.”

His gaze warmed and the ghosts receded. She sucked in her breath as the familiar heat took hold. Sawyer wrapped his fingers around her ankles and dragged her close.

“exactly. I think it’s time to get back to our own negotia-tions.”

Julietta ignored the rush of joy and chalked it up to sexual hormones. “I thought we had concluded our business.

Three orgasms definitely wins the bet.”

He gave a wolfish smile. “Then just call me an over-achiever.”

He covered his body with hers. Julietta had never known losing could be so sweet.

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