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Between Love and Loathing: Chapter 7

DOMINIC

There was a new word I was starting to associate with everything Clara Milton.

Addictive.

I saw how she navigated people at the welcome event, how people gravitated toward her, took her opinion into consideration. I even did when she tore down my resort design. She had a refreshing eye and was honest with it. And then she’d stood up for Paloma more than she ever stood up for herself. It reminded me of what art was and what it could be.

I wouldn’t dim that even if it meant giving into Paloma’s store name. I told Rita, too, and of course she’d been pissed, but I didn’t care. When Clara stood up for Paloma in a moment I’d been sure she’d stand down, that’s when her light became brilliant, became irresistibly exceptional, shining so much brighter than the others that I couldn’t look away.

I’d thought I’d fade off into the background at the party again, but instead, I caught her sneaking off.

She’d stepped up to the plate and fucking swung, too, when she painted my wall.

Mine. I wanted that clear. Everything in this damn resort was mine, and she’d vandalized it. Altered it. Changed it to her needs.

It was bold and completely rebellious. And my cock wanted to punish her or praise her for it, I wasn’t sure which at this point. Something about Clara going against me and pushing boundaries when I knew she normally gave in to accommodate had me wanting more, craving more, needing more.

I’d fast become addicted to whatever she was serving. And that was dangerous. I didn’t indulge in vices anymore. Sugar and sex were both big ones.

Clara Milton deserved a pink backdrop to the bakery she’d always wanted. She deserved probably everything she’d asked for. Yet, you had to be cutthroat to be at the top, vicious in pursuit of your vision, and willing to leave bodies behind. I was more than willing because I’d learned the hard way to do so. I wanted her to be that way too.

“You’re what?” I asked again, harder this time. I wanted an answer. I wanted her to either fight or tell me she was something less.

I saw the desolation in her big green eyes and also the hunger; the hunger to be good enough, to fit in, to succeed. It reminded me of what I’d wanted so many years ago.

She’d gotten this bakery without working for it, and yet she still tried her hardest, had been on board to analyze every tiny design detail like me. I saw her effort and a part of me wanted her to fail so she understood that without failure, you couldn’t truly reach success. She’d potentially fail over and over again with this bakery, but she only had to get up and keep trying.

She had to learn to fight.

I glanced down at the chocolate and saw it was clumping together. “Shit.”

“Want to start again?” She sniffed the air. “If you don’t temper it, you’ll never get it right.”

My jaw ticked. I hated failure even if it was small. “Show me the recipe.”

Her mouth opened, the rosy color of her lips plumping out into a pout as she shut it again like she was speechless. “I’m not … It’s too late to teach you a recipe right now. Are you serious?”

“I want to learn it. Right. Now.”

“Maybe another day, Mr. Hardy.” She rolled her big pretty eyes as she said my last name that I’d put between us as a boundary. Now, though, it was just acting as another magnet. I enjoyed how she tried to goad me. “We should get back to the party.”

True, except I wasn’t going anywhere now. “No.” I shook my head slowly, my voice low, “Show me.”

As she bit her lip, I knew she was considering it.

I pointed to the saucepan in front of me. “Come right here, little fighter. Let’s see if you have it in you to do again.”

There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation when I challenged her like that. “Fine.” She walked right up to the counter, shouldered me in my chest, and got to work. She handed me the saucepan and pointed to the sink where I dropped it, keeping my eyes on her. “That’s all wasted so we’re starting over.”

She reached high above her, and I watched her stretch, noting that she was probably going to need a stool to reach all the way up in her own cabinets. Having her body against me, smelling the chocolate mixed with the flowery scent of her hair had my cock twitching.

She pulled out a thick bowl that I saw her practically glare at.

“Something wrong with that too?”

“I requested red bowls.”

Also noted. “Could have been here to stop that order had you not been catering to your boyfriend’s need to have you at his hockey game.” She wanted to bicker about a damn dish, I’d meet her at her level.

No one fought me head-on anymore but she was ready as she slammed down the bowl. “He’s not my boyfriend. He’s a friend. Ever had a friend that’s a girl?”

I let my eyes rake over her body, making sure she caught me. “He’d fuck you if you gave him the chance.”

“Oh, he does when I do.” Her smile was saccharine as she shrugged. “Still doesn’t make him my boyfriend.”

I felt it like a gut punch. Fuck. One point for her.

The tightening in my stomach was only due to the fact that I didn’t actually like the desserts that I could smell everywhere, right? It definitely wasn’t because hearing that Clara and Noah truly were fucking around pissed me off. I didn’t get jealous about women anymore, and I definitely didn’t get jealous over women I didn’t even like.

“If you’re fucking around with a guy, he’s more than a friend.”

“Really?” she countered. “So, when you sleep with women—”

“I don’t stay over. I don’t even fall asleep in their bed for a minute.” I hadn’t in years, not that it was her business, but a point needed to be made. “I tell them I’m fucking them, Ms. Milton, and that’s it. I don’t go to their games or wear their jerseys or end up in magazines with them. I make my intentions clear.”

“As do I,” she threw back. “Noah and I have always been very clear about the expectations. He’s great that way.”

“He’s a fuckboy who has women circling him twenty-four seven. You should be careful with the men you’re—”

“Mr. Hardy.” She tsked. “We are colleagues. Not friends. I don’t need your advice on anything but what you want in the bakery, and even that’s mostly unwarranted.”

I chuckled. Damn, she was something when she got a little alcohol in her. “Fine. You like reds and pinks and every color on the planet. Rita and I don’t.”

“You’re depriving me of my dream.” She said it with passion, and her eyes shined, like there was emotion behind them.

I actually contemplated soothing her. I took a deep breath. “Want me to change the bowls then?” Her gaze whipped to mine as she dropped the bowl into another saucepan and turned the stove way down. Her eyes shone with questions, curiosity, and hope. Why had I said that?

“Don’t offer that unless you mean it, Dominic,” she whispered, all joking aside as she murmured my first name this time. I loved hearing it across her lips.

“I don’t normally say anything I don’t mean.”

We stared at one another for far too long as she stirred without looking. Then, she glanced down before grumbling, “Good luck telling Rita.”

“Are you aware I’m her boss? You think she’s going to have a problem with my request?” I smirked and Clara glanced up with a small smile, then she chuckled.

“I mean, probably.” Another giggle bubbled up, and then she was laughing as she grabbed another cooking utensil and spun the butter round and round, adding in the cacao and sugar. Effortlessly, she salted the concoction and then dribbled in a few drops of an oil. “It’s her bakery after all.”

She admitted the last part with a sigh, letting her laugh die, and I couldn’t stop myself from taking in the woman before me. Curves for days, dressed in heels and a cream dress full of flowers. She continued to drop in flavors even as I moved closer to dip a finger into the warm liquid that had turned to silk and caught her frowning. “What?”

“I just can’t get over seeing you indulge in any of this, especially melted chocolate that needs to go into the cupcakes, when you never stop by the bakery, ever.”

She didn’t know me. She had no idea how much I would indulge in a vice, no idea about my ex, and how that led me to make fatal errors by doing so in the past. “Clara, I indulge when it’s worth it to do so.”

I found it harder and harder to hold back now as her cheeks pinkened under my scrutiny. The woman caught innuendo fast because her mind was probably exactly where mine was.

“Well, my chocolate is finally worth it, then? As opposed to all the years you passed by my bakery back home?”

“In my defense, now I need to know what will be in my resort.”

She hummed and then murmured, “A touch of salt with three drops of lavender and sprinkling of cinnamon mixed with nutmeg is key. I add more some days and less others dependent on my mood.”

“It won’t be the same, then.”

“It’ll be mine though, and that should be enough.” She quickly removed it from the heat and set it on the other burner, but she didn’t step away from me. She met me with that burning gaze again. “I’m trying to prove that mine is enough here.”

“And yet you let Rita run right over you for this bakery.”

“I was trying to be ‘harmonious’ with your needs,” she shot back.

“Ah. So sweet of you, Clara.” That never worked if it was a designer’s vision. “But, tell me, was it ‘harmonious’ when you called my resort a sterile hospital?”

She took a deep breath. “Well, I apologize for that—”

“Don’t.” My command cut through the air. She needed to learn something now and consciously pick a side. I leaned in, close enough to have my lips against her ear. “Are you sweet or spicy, babe? A pushover or a fighter?” I pulled back when she didn’t answer right away. Her gaze glinted with embarrassment or anger or both. “Should we see? You as sweet as this chocolate or not?”

I was pushing her to the edge. I knew that. Maybe I wanted her to fold and step away. She needed to.

She needed to understand her place, but instead she stepped up to me and reached into the saucepan, swiping up melted chocolate on her finger and then dragging it across her collarbone. “I don’t know, Dominic.” She whispered, “Want to taste me and see?”

A challenge for a challenge. She met me head-on.

So, I guess the fighter in Clara didn’t know when to quit. She’d met a formidable match, too, because I didn’t even hesitate. I should have, but I’d had a hell of a day with structural problems and calls from overseas about another project. The last straw was listening to her tear apart the blood, sweat, and tears that went into designing and managing this resort.

Truth was it shouldn’t have just been me. I had a whole team of restaurateurs, designers, financial advisors, HR, and every other possible person needed. Yet, I wanted my hands in everything. A person didn’t get their perfection without doing it themselves.

I grabbed her neck and pushed her chin up so I could get better access to that sensitive part of her body. She shuddered when my tongue dragged across her collarbone and then my teeth. I wouldn’t be gentle. When I shoved her against the counter and gripped her hip to lift her by her neck and thigh, she went willingly, wrapping her arms around my neck and spreading her legs for me to walk in between.

I didn’t take my mouth from her neck. I couldn’t. Her skin was smoother than the ribbons of chocolate, supple and full as I explored further down toward her breasts. Her hands were in my hair, pulling everywhere as she moaned that she needed this, that she wanted one more second.

“One second? Is that all you give your friend Noah?” I shook my head and she gasped at feeling my scruff against her soft skin. “I get more than that, Clara. I want to take my time tasting just to make sure I have it right.”

“Wh-what? You just did.”

I brought my thumb from her neck up to trace her lower lip, so plump and swollen, showing me she’d been biting it as I sucked on that neck of hers. I held her gaze as I shoved her dress up her thighs, higher and higher. The air in the room crackled with silent tension, and even though the lighting was dim, she vibrated with a bright electricity I couldn’t look away from.

I’d ruin someone like her, and the idea of it had my cock rock hard against her stomach as my hand reached the lace under her dress. “When I said I wanted to taste you, I didn’t mean your neck, baby. Or these fuckable lips.”

I pushed the lace to the side and found her drenched for me. She gasped at how fast I found her clit, how I didn’t hesitate to pinch it as I brought my other hand back around her throat and pushed her down so her back was flat against the stainless steel of her gourmet prep island. It gave me easy access to her pussy, to play and taste to my heart’s content.

“I meant I wanted to taste you here.” I slid one finger into her as I continued to work her clit. I loved how her eyes practically rolled to the back of her head, how her whole body arched at my touch. But I wanted more.

I wanted her to remember this—remember that the bakery and resort she’d called sterile could be dirtied up, that I could indulge, and I would right here and now when it came to her. But I made the rules. I’d bring indulgence here when it was needed. Tonight, it was.

I got on my knees, wanting the smell of her around me, her arousal to coat my face, to have her understand that I owned her here and not the other way around.

My tongue dragged against her slit, and she whimpered, “Dominic, please.”

“Spread your legs wider, baby. I want full access. This is mine now. Mine to taste over and over.”

She didn’t fight me. Her thighs moved like her body belonged to me, and I smiled into my pussy. It was mine. All mine. I became intoxicated, drunk on it and not the whiskey I’d already had that night. I was high on the smell of her, ravenous for the taste of her, and vicious in my pursuit of stealing that orgasm. I sucked on her clit as I felt her body tightening. It was like she wanted to hit her high, but she wanted to fight it, too.

My little fighter. “Let go, baby.” She started to work her hips faster and faster, but I knew she was still holding back as I looked up and saw her biting her lip. I pulled back to push a finger into her and she moaned. “That’s it. You’re going to give me all of you. I want to taste your orgasm on my lips, Clara. Ride my face like you fucking need it.” She whimpered when I lowered my mouth to her again and thrust my tongue into her pussy.

Damn, did she move those hips like she’d been instructed to.

Her grip on my hair grew more and more intense as her thighs tightened around my face like she could pull me closer, like I didn’t already have my head buried as far into her as I could.

She tasted sweet and like she was mine. I pinched and rolled her clit so I was the one that pushed her over the edge, even if she was riding my face.

Her whole body clenched as she murmured, “Fuck.” The swear sounded sweet on her lips before she screamed my name. The whole thing. Not just Dom or Dominic, but Dominic Hardy. And the raspy sound was purely sexual, filled with passion and surrender.

I drank in her arousal as it soaked my tongue, letting her aftershocks find a home on my mouth because I wanted to learn every taste of hers. I was thorough in all I did, but this was going to become an obsession. Getting Clara Milton to come was going to be a pleasure I wouldn’t pass up in the near future. I knew that right then and there.

Clara Milton stretched her light and fun out everywhere. I’d seen it over and over again in the time since knowing her father—how she still smiled at Rita even though my interior designer railroaded her, how she agreed to changes on her design without me meeting with her, how her friend with benefits asked her to stay home for his damn games.

She was a people pleaser, giving herself away always, but tonight, I wanted her all to myself.

When her body finally relaxed, I stood over her, the taste of her still across my lips, her arousal still coating my fingers. I dipped one finger in the chocolate near us and ran it along her bottom lip telling her to taste it. Her green eyes were hazy, but I saw the spark in them as I commanded her to do it. “You are as sweet as your cupcakes, huh?”

She took a deep breath, holding my gaze as she dragged her pink tongue across her soft lips slow enough that my cock twitched twice watching. I didn’t break eye contact as I dipped my finger in the bourbon, swirling the chocolate and her arousal around before I brought my finger to my mouth to suck them clean. “Sweet and Spicy just might be a fitting name for this bakery. Fuck, you taste good.”

She shivered at my words, her breath coming faster again, and … damn. Normally, I got what I wanted from a woman, and I didn’t pursue much else. I made myself very clear and that included kissing them and whispering niceties after we fucked around.

Even so, when I bent to kiss Clara, it wasn’t to be nice. I murmured, “Taste how much your pussy likes me and my resort now.” I shoved my tongue in her mouth and thrust my hard length against her sensitive core. She gasped and quaked under me.

I was about to step back when her tongue darted out to meet mine. Then her arm wrapped around my neck, and she pulled me closer, grabbing at my belt to grind my hips to hers as she moaned.

Shit.

I didn’t intend to fuck her tonight. I didn’t even like the girl. And I hated her bakery being in my resort.

But damn, I liked the taste of her pussy.


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