Bjⱷrn placed the plates on the tray and tidied up the galley. He turned when he heard someone coming below deck — the last person he wanted to see at the moment.
“Mikael, food is in the oven. It is my night with Kirsty, so unless the boat catches fire, don’t bother us.” He saw the contemptuous look on his older brother’s face, “Hell, even if it does, do not bother us.”
His brother shook his head and sneered, “Why? Why did you have to do this? We were fine. We did not need this crazy tradition. In the world we live in, it’s dangerous and stupid. We could go to prison for a long time if we get caught.” He shook his head, “We don’t want to share a woman.”
Bjⱷrn sighed, “We or you, Mikael? We tried it your way, remember? And honestly, whether you want this or not, it is who we are. Modern world or not. So, instead of spending the rest of your life trying to break away from traditions, maybe you should ask yourself why?”
He reached out his hand to put it on his brother’s shoulder, but Mikael shrugged him away. Just as he pushed them all away for years. Since that woman left. “Being a part of this family, of this way of life, does not have to make you second best. It can offer you the chance to be your very best, be who you are.”
Mikael shook his head and screwed up his face until it was a mask of scorn and disgust. But Bjⱷrn was not going to be silent this time, “You know that whole lone wolf thing is highly overrated. Without the pack to have their back, they die. Of starvation. From other predators. They are miserable without their pack. Sound familiar? Now if you will excuse me, I have better, prettier company to keep this evening, brother.”
He shook his head as he pushed past his brother. He knew that he had been rough upon the man, but maybe that was what Mikael needed. He did not care. As he said, right now, he had much better things to do than spend any more time trying to convince the man of something they had all agreed to, something that was done already.
No, now, it was about moving forward. Moving forward as a family. And she was the key to that. The key to making three brothers who had spent a lifetime squabbling, as siblings always did, into a real family, into men.
She was their anchor. He chuckled at the analogy. How appropriate, but that was what they were a ship. A ship that was broken, pulling apart by the storms, hell, hurricanes of modernity. But she could be their anchor, could hold them together, and help them ride out the storm.
He paused outside the doorway. He squared his shoulders, inhaled deeply, and prepared himself for whatever awaited on the other side. Because the truth was that while his company was most definitely prettier than either of his brothers, she was no less stubborn. And he needed to gird himself for a battle with her too.
But unlike his Viking forefathers, it would not be axes or shields with which he fought. It would be his mind. And he welcomed the challenge as much as they had embraced the battles and the blood. “Valhalla could never be half as sweet as winning you will be,” he smiled as he knocked.
This time he was both shocked and relieved when a feminine voice answered, “Come in.” They were making progress, perhaps?
But when he opened the door to find her standing next to the bed, naked and with every damned implement from the toy box laid out on the bed, he stopped short. Without a word, he put the tray down on the table.
He walked over and began picking up the ropes, cuffs, floggers, paddles, and all the rest. His hands were full as he turned silently and put them back where they belonged. It took him two trips to complete the task. She stared at him the whole time. As he closed the lid, she stamped her foot and crossed her arms over her breasts. But he refused to back down. She was the first to look away, and Bjⱷrn smiled quickly at the tiny victory.
He shrugged out of his shirt and tossed it at her, “Put this on.”
Her head popped up; her hands dropped to plant firmly on her wide hips, she jutted her chest out like a banty rooster. Her cheeks and chest flamed a deep scarlet that made her even more beautiful if that were possible.
But the words out of her mouth floored him, “What? The fat girl not to your liking? Svein’s choice not up to Thor’s standard.”
He shook his head as he reached out to grasp her turgid nipples firmly between his thumb and forefinger. She dropped her gaze to the floor. He smiled, realizing that Kirsty did not want him to see just what he was doing to her, to her body. He rolled them back and forth for a moment until they were even harder, though how that was possible Bjⱷrn was not sure. He pinched them then.
Her gaze shot up instantly to meet his, “What makes you think that you were Svein’s choice? He preferred the jaded Russian girl with the kid. Thought she would be easier, more grateful not to have to struggle and always worry about keeping a roof over her kid’s head and food on the table.”
He enjoyed the look of shocked surprise then, “He probably was right too. Except for the abusive way, she treated the child. That we won’t stand for.”
He chuckled, “And I suppose I don’t need to tell you that Mikael refused to put forth a candidate, said it was up to us to choose. He would go along with whomever we wanted. He did go along with the plan last night, did he not? Not the natural ally you expected, was he?”
She blushed even deeper at the truth of his insight as his fingers left her nipples, reluctantly. He held her gaze, dared her to look away. “You are MY choice. And if I ever hear you use that word about yourself again, you won’t be able to sit down for a couple of days.”
He heard the quick intake of breath at his threat, “Oh, that turns you on, does it? Then I’ll have to come up with another option. Punishment is not meant for your pleasure. But never doubt, I will find your weakness. That thing you fear most. And I am not afraid to use it. When you deserve it.”
He sighed, “As for the toys? Those are easy, Kirsty. Any Dom can use handcuffs and a paddle. Hell, any idiot can, and more than a few do. With a bit of practice, they can even learn rope like Svein. And one day, I will introduce you to the pleasures and pain that a flogger can give. In the right hands, of course.”
“All of that is easy. What I want, what I need is so much more than that.” He stepped even closer.
She was not a small woman, but neither was he a small man, and he used his size then to intimidate her. He wanted her to feel vulnerable. He wanted her to feel small. He even wanted her to taste fear, just a bit. “No, what I demand is so much more than that.”
The fingers of his hand moved between their bodies until they found the soft, smooth, wet surface at the juncture of her thighs. He savored the way her eyes widened as they slipped just inside the wet folds, “No, my love, I don’t want any of that…”
He pulled his fingers out and brought them to his lips, licking the wetness that glistened in the light from them as he held her gaze, “Or even this sweetness.”
He smiled as he used the same fingers that the moment before had been inside of her to tap her forehead, “Not until I have what is in here.” He dropped them lower to the hard flat surface between those beautiful alabaster tits sprinkled generously with light brown freckles until they looked like cupcakes covered in candy particles just waiting to be devoured. “And what is in here.”
He held her gaze until once more her blush deepened, and she dropped her eyes. He bent then and picked up his shirt from where it had landed on the bed. He held it out for her. “Now put this on as I told you to before. Not because I don’t want to look at that luscious body, but because I do not want to be distracted and tempted with thoughts of all the thousands of ways I will use it, train it, bring you and me pleasure that you cannot even imagine yet.”
“You would not go naked on any other first date, would you? Not while we get to know one another. Tonight is about getting to know one another more. About talking and eating over a nice bottle of wine. About me learning even more about your job and friends.”
He met her gaze and smiled wider, “And about learning more about us, our home. I can’t wait for you to meet our mother. You are going to love her. Maybe almost as much as she does you. So please, put on my shirt while I warm our food back up.”
He gave the order, even though he crouched it as a request, it was a command nonetheless. He picked the tray up, turned, and walked to the door. He did not look back as he opened it and stepped outside.
Only then did he allow himself the massive smile that he had been holding in from the moment she dropped her eyes that first time. He was not sure what the score was at this point in the game, but he knew one thing…he was winning. That round, at least.
It was Svein he found in the galley when he went to warm the plates in the microwave. “What did you say to Mikael this time?” he demanded.
Bjⱷrn finished punching the numbers into the microwave before turning to answer his brother’s question, “The truth. Nothing he does not need to hear.”
Svein shook his head as he brought a bite of chicken to his mouth. They were both silent as he chewed. He did not speak until he had taken a swig from the open bottle of beer on the table, “You know she was supposed to make things better. Bring us together. Not have us at one another’s throats. Tear us apart.”
Bjⱷrn chuckled as the machine dinged and he pulled the plate of food out, placing it back on the tray before lifting it, he answered his brother with a smile, “If you listened to Mama’s stories, you would know that sometimes you must do one before you can do the other.”
He smiled at his eldest brother as he walked past him, “Our way is not easy, brother. Just right, for us anyway. Now, if you will excuse me as I told Mikael, I have much prettier company this evening.”
Kirsty tried to stifle a yawn as she chuckled at another of Bjⱷrn’s funny stories about growing up on the ‘Holding’ as he called it. She did not know how long they had been talking. The plates sat empty on the table, the tray discarded on the floor, as they cuddled together in the bed half-naked.
She chuckled again and blushed at the thought, “What?” he asked with a deep rumbly chuckle of his own that she felt through her whole body. Her head rested upon his bare shoulder, one hand exploring the expanse of his surprisingly bronzed chest.
She bit her lower lip and moved her hand away. Or tried to anyway until he covered it with his own.
“Kirsty, look at me,” the command was back in his voice. And it did funny things to her body. She struggled to breathe even as she fought not to obey him. But she lost as she lifted her eyes to meet his gaze. How could she hope to win when it was herself she was fighting and not this man?
“I asked what you were thinking,” he replied casually, but the way his fingers caressed hers as they rested over his heart, the intense dark gaze, was anything but.
The intimacy beat at her then. Did she dare? Were even her thoughts no longer her own? Then she remembered his words earlier, ‘Not until I have what is in here.’ It was frightening how easily he had slipped inside her mind. She lifted her head, tried to pull back, but the arm on which she rested her head tightened about her, held her there.
“Don’t run from me. Not now.” He chuckled lightly, “Has it really been all that bad? Our time together, our first date?”
His transparency at that moment broke through walls that she wanted desperately to keep in place. How could she deny this man access to her thoughts and feelings when he had revealed so much of his own this night?
Her eyes misted over, and she laid her head back on his shoulder, as much because she did not want him to see the tears that glistened in her eyes. After all, she needed the solid comfort of his embrace to fortify her.
“No. That’s the problem,” she whispered.
His fingers brushed her chin, lifted her face to meet his gaze. “Why is that a problem, my love?”
She shook her head, “How can you use those words so casually?” she sighed.
“How can we lay half-naked in bed together, sharing secrets that even my best friends never knew? And call it a first date? You and your brothers kidnapped me. You took me from my job, my friends, my family, everything I knew. I don’t even know what tomorrow holds.”
She was losing the battle as she felt the huge tears slid down her cheeks. “And all I can think is…does he kiss on the first date? What is wrong with me? How fucked is that?”
His fingers were infinitely gentle as they brushed the tears away. He brought them to his lips and tasted them, just as he had other things earlier. His arm about her loosened just a bit as he turned so that they faced one another fully.
“Answer me one thing, my love, and then I will answer all those questions,” once more she fought a losing battle as she found herself nodding her head slowly.
“Were you happy then? In that life…our job, your parents, your friends? Did they make you feel as happy and as secure as you have in my arms this past couple of hours?”
Her heart stopped. She could not make her lungs work. She could not breathe. How had he known? How had he cut through everything to the one thing that bothered her most? She knew that there was no chance she could lie her way of this one. Her reaction to his words alone would tell anyone with half a brain the truth.
And there was nothing halfway about Bjⱷrn’s brain. Not only was the most handsome, hottest, the hunkiest guy she had ever known, but he might also well be one of the smartest. He was anything but the simple fisherman he claimed to be. He was well-read, some of the classics she had not even read, and her parents had not spared any expense upon her education.
Truth be told, …this man fascinated her. Turned her libido onto high. And made her want to believe every damned word he said about his home, his mother, their life…all he could offer her. All that sounded like heaven to her. Too good to be true.
Without waiting for empty words, he smiled. “I thought so. If you believe nothing else, I ever tell you, believe this: if I did not honestly believe that I…that we…could make you happy. Happier than the job you truly did love. Happier than a traditional relationship that lacked any real passion,” he winked as his fingers pinched her nipple through the soft material. “Happier than parents, you see once a month or friends that you spend more time with online than face-to-face. Then I…we…would have never taken you.”
He leaned his forehead against hers and smiled like she imagined that little boy would have to watch the falcon soar. “Besides, my love, I know your dirty little secret. You forget I’m a damned good hacker. I know every book on that tablet over there,” he smiled and nodded to the table behind her. “And I know that the idea of being taken…dominated…and yes, loved, by brothers is more intriguing to you than it is frightening.”
She blushed as she shoved playfully at his bare chest, “Hey, that is just fiction. Fantasy. Doesn’t a girl have any privacy with you?”
He rolled her then. His big body covered hers as she stared up into the intensely dark face that was all man, all Dom, nothing like the vulnerable little boy he had revealed in his stories that night. He bent until everything else in the cabin, the world, blurred into the background. Until he was all there was.
“Your secret is safe with me, sweetheart. Not even my brothers know how much you really are our willing captive. But no, between us, there will never be any secrets. Do you understand me?”
Kirsty nodded her head slowly. She was not sure whether she was more thrilled or frightened by his words…his intensity. No author could have ever captured her darkest fantasies as accurately as the man who held her now. And that truly was terrifying.
He was so close. His breath caressed her skin, mixed with hers. She wanted to taste those lips even as they opened again.
“I have already answered one of your questions. Know this too. I do not use those words casually. You are my love. Yes, I know that freaks you the fuck out,” he chuckled and smiled.
“Yes, I know that you set eyes on me only yesterday. Yes, I know that you thought this was a one-off casual thing with Svein and woke up at sea to find yourself married. And make no mistake about that, either. You are married to all of us now. You are ours. And we do not easily let go of what is ours, my love.”
“I know that all of that freaks you out. But it also thrills you, makes you feel safer and more excited than you ever have, than you ever imagined possible.”
Those green eyes caressed her face, “I know too that at this moment you feel closer, more connected to me than the man you spent six years of your life with. And if that was not just a tiny bit freaky and frightening, then I would be worried, then you would not be my Kirsty,” he smiled as his fingers caressed her bottom lip.
“So, do I think you are fucked in the head? No. As out of step with the times, as unique, as different as we are, yes. But who is to say that it is not we, who are sane and the world that is fucked?”
“As for what tomorrow holds? None of us know. That is how this crazy tradition began: one woman who grew tired of being a victim of Fate. One woman who wanted something different, fairer, more controlled for her sons and their mate than the life that she had known.”
“But one thing I promise you, my love,” her mind screamed out at those words again. Her heart skipped several beats at the look in his eyes. She wanted to argue that no one could really love someone they just met, but what she saw there said otherwise.
“The most beautiful thing of all this is that whatever tomorrow holds, you will never ever be alone again as you have felt up until now. Because that is what family really is.”
His laughter washed over her like waves upon the sand, sweeping her away with the tide, “Ours might not be perfect family, and if Mikael gets in my face one more time, you may need those first aid skills of yours. When push comes to shove as it did when Greta left him and Monica, we are always there for one another. And you are a part of that now. The biggest part.”
His face turned dark and severe once more. It shocked and thrilled her at how easily this man, dare she even think it, her man, could go from Happy as she had nicknamed him to profound and intense. She could spend years digging his depths. At that moment, she honestly wanted to buy it all, the story of happily ever after that he held out to her. Could it really work?
“And yes. I kiss on the first date. But my kind of kissing is a bit intense,” he switched back to her playful little boy once more.
It drew forth her own, “Like everything else about you isn’t?”
His fingers covered her lips that they had only moments before been caressing, “Shhh, my love, that is our little secret, just like Captured Brides are,” he said, revealing her favorite erotica series.
“Okay, so I bite, what is so intense about your kisses?”
“You bite? I thought that was more Svein’s thing. But I won’t deny the idea of your teeth in my shoulder as I make you come over and over again on my hard cock has some interesting possibilities. It might border a bit on switching, but hell, I’m game to try if you are,” his naughty words had her body instantly on overdrive.
“Your kisses? We were discussing your kisses,” Kirsty hoped her voice did not sound has needy to him as it did to her.
He sighed and pressed the hard ridge of that cock even closer to her core that was bare beneath the shirt. His shirt. His cock. His woman, she fought the thought.
“So my dirty talk turns you on to. Your fetish list is getting longer, my love.” He bent until his mouth touched her ear lobe, “Did I notice breathplay on it too?”
“What? Haven’t you stolen my breath often enough tonight with your words?” she teased.
His chuckle swept more of her beneath his powerful waves once more, “But I have not had the pleasure of sharing it. Of tasting you.” He rose above her once more, that dark intensity bore through her, “Your permission, Kirsty. Do I have your consent?”
“Make no mistake about this. I will hold your life in my hands,” he explained. “My hands about your throat will tighten until you cannot breathe on your own. My mouth will cover yours, and I will take into my body what little air remains in your lungs. They will burn from lack of oxygen. Your head will get light. Everything inside of you will cry out for you to fight me. But I won’t allow it.”
“I will not release you unless you tap out, and only now as I learn your body, your limits will I allow that. The day will come when there will be no safe words, no limits between us, when you will trust me even for the air you breathe. You will relax into me. You will surrender all those fears to me.”
“Why? Because you know that your life is more valuable to me than it is even to you. Because you want and need to give it to me as much as I want and need you to. Then and only then will I breathe my breath back into you. And it will be my breath. Our breaths will be one as much as our bodies or souls ever could be.”
He smiled down at her, “Is that intense enough for you, my love? And most importantly, do you trust me enough to share that? Do you really want to ‘kiss’ me?”
He sighed and brushed her hair softly, “I won’t lie and pretend that I won’t be disappointed if you say ‘no.’ I will be. Devastated probably. But I won’t go anywhere. I’ll wrap you in my arms and hold you while you sleep.”
“And tomorrow, I’ll love you just as much as I do right now, as I did from probably that third email. Remember the one where you told me…us…about how empty you felt when Raj left, not because you loved him so much but because you had wasted so many years with a man you had not and could not ever really love.”
“Because I know you can and will one day…that you will love and trust me. And I can wait for that. I don’t want anything less from you ever. Do you hear me?”
She nodded her head slowly as his words sank into her mind, into her heart, into her body that wanted his so damned badly. More than she had ever wanted anything. She nodded and met his gaze, “Yes,” she whispered.
“Yes, what, Kirsty? Yes, you heard me? Or yes, you want me to kiss you?”
He lowered his head until their lips were almost meeting once more. His eyes seemed to search her face. She remembered his words about their breath mingling and becoming one. Wasn’t it already? In that fraction of a centimeter between them? What was that little distance anyway? Was it even real? Weren’t they already one in it?
She stared at those lips, so close, so far. “What if I want more than just a kiss, Bjⱷrn?”
She heard his quick intake of breath. She felt as if he already was sucking the precious oxygen and life from her body as he arched closer against hers, as his hard cock rubbed slowly against her. She opened her thighs as he sunk even closer.
One of his hand laced through her hair, tugged hard until her eyes left those lips she craved, until they once more were lost in his depths. His other hand went about her throat, but it only rested there lightly. “Are you willing to give as much as you get? Are you willing to open more than just those sexy legs? Are you willing to let me deeper into your mind and heart than my cock can ever get into that sweet pussy it is dying to feel wrapped around it?”
“Do you understand what I’m asking? Maybe you aren’t as in love with me right now as I am with you. I can understand that. But are you willing to open your heart enough to that possibility?”
He breathed deeply, “Practically speaking, do I have your word that when we land tomorrow, maybe the next day, that you will not run? That you will give this, us, a fair chance? Because trust me as badly as my cock wants inside of you right now, those are my terms. And I won’t negotiate.”
He held perfectly still. She could feel the intensity in his body arc back and forth between them like electricity, like lightning off of Thor’s hammer. He waited as he had said he would. Patiently for her answer.