Have Me (Stark Trilogy, #3.6)

Have Me (Stark Trilogy, #3.6) by J. Kenner

Chapter 1

Mrs. Damien Stark.

Those three simple words fill my thoughts as they have all morning, ever since I spoke the magic words that transformed me from Nikki Louise Fairchild, a single woman, to Nikki Fairchild Stark, a wife.

I feel the tug of muscles as my mouth curves up into a grin, followed by the tightening of Damien’s hand around mine. “You’re smiling,” he says.

“I can’t seem to stop,” I admit. We have been walking side by side along a Mexican beach, the cool water of the Pacific rising up to froth around our ankles, then rushing back out again in a rhythm as old as time.

Now I turn to face him, and my breath catches in my throat even as my pulse picks up tempo. I have looked at him so many times, and yet every glimpse is like the first. He is power and perfection, love and honor. He is the culmination of my dreams, the embodiment of my fantasies.

He is the future, I think.

Most of all, he is mine.

He is standing with his back to the ocean, the blue sky spread wide behind him as the waves churn around his feet. He wears swim trunks low on his hips and an open short-sleeved button-down. It catches the breeze, the white material emphasizing his athletic build and the sleek, tanned chest that my fingers itch to stroke.

Even dressed so casually, Damien looks like a mythical god rising from the sea, a being so powerful that even the elements cower at his command. And in a moment of giddy certainty I know that this man would have been as successful on a battlefield as he is in a boardroom.

Not for the first time, I think about the fragility of circumstance. What if we had been born a hundred years apart, or even twenty, or ten? What if he hadn’t judged that beauty pageant so many years ago? What if I had caved to my mother and become a model instead of pursuing my dreams? And what if I’d slapped his face instead of accepting his offer of one million dollars in exchange for a nude portrait of me?

I would have survived, yes, but surviving isn’t the same as living, and with Damien, I am vibrantly, brilliantly, happily alive.

I tell him my thoughts, wishing I had the words to truly describe the way my heart swells with both relief and gratitude when I think about how even the tiniest snip of the threads in the tapestry of time could have sent our lives spiraling down different paths.

“You’re a miracle,” I conclude, hoping that he understands despite the inadequacy of my words.

“No,” he counters. “We’re the miracle.” His words make me shiver, because Damien Stark gets me in a way no one else ever has, or ever will. And that, I think, is the real miracle.

I watch as he glances at his wrist, then grimaces in wry amusement when he doesn’t find a watch there. I laugh. “Out of your element, Mr. Stark?”

“Happily roughing it,” he counters, then turns toward the horizon. “What time do you think it is?” he asks. “Almost eleven?”

The sun looks down upon us from above, and I tilt my head back, shielding my eyes with my hand as I gaze at its white-hot heat. This is the time of day when the sand glitters and light sparkles off the ocean’s froth like liquid fire. Appropriate, I think. Because right now, I want nothing more than to burn in Damien’s arms.

“That’s probably about right,” I say. “Why? Do you have some pressing engagement?”

He grins in response to the amusement in my voice. “As a matter of fact, yes.”

I raise my brows in legitimate surprise. “Oh, really?” I’m certain he hasn’t planned a lunch. After all, we had a romantic breakfast on the beach right after our wedding ceremony, and that was only a few hours ago. We’d indulged in everything from delicate crepes to plump berries to coffee with thick, heavy cream. No way was he hungry again already.

“All right,” I say. “Out with it. What’s up?”

He says nothing, but merely hooks his arm through mine. “We should be getting back.”

I narrow my eyes, but fail at my effort to look stern. Because, of course, I know what he has planned. Or at least I know the gist of it. This is our wedding day, after all. And there are certain traditional ways of passing the time immediately after tying the knot. Frankly, I’m all for that plan. What I don’t know are the specifics of what Damien has in mind.

I examine his face, noting in particular the determined gleam in his eyes. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

His mouth twitches as he fights a smile. “Not even if you beg.” He leans toward me, then brushes his lips over mine. “And I do like it when you beg,” he adds, his voice full of wicked promises.

The kiss is soft and teasing, but my reaction is anything but gentle, and I have to fight the urge to press myself hard against him as a familiar heat pools between my thighs. “Damien,” I say, and I hear something close to desperation in my voice. Passion is never far beneath the surface with the two of us, and just that simple kiss has sent fire rippling through and over me.

I reach out and grab his shirt front, then use it as a lever to pull him closer even as I move toward him. The air between us is charged, and I feel the surge of electricity rush through me as I press against his bare chest, now slick from the heat and humidity.

Beneath the thin material of my bikini top, my nipples tighten, and I make a small sound of longing. I changed out of my wedding dress before breakfast, and now I am wearing only this small top, tiny bikini bottoms, and a sheer pink sarong wrapped around my hips and knotted at the side. But even such minimal attire is too much. I want nothing but skin on skin, and I ease my hips forward, desperate to feel him against me.

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