“I forbid this route. Do you understand?”
“I understand, Sir. I will seek another option.”
“You will obey me in all things. That means letting your men protect you and fight your battles. You will not ponder, think, or analyze anything pertaining to the madman’s demise. You will not make a single choice or decision without consulting me, whether it pertains to something as insignificant as what you eat or drink, or whether it is as terrifying as an approaching Armageddon. Understood?”
“What would that be?”
“Promise you will not interfere with me doing my job.”
“I’m not keeping you from doing your job. I am making you voice your decisions as they arise and allowing me to help you avoid a suicide mission.”
“I understand, Sir. Some part of my psych wants this control, wants you keeping me safe in this way, even though it is completely illogical.” Staring into space, she started chewing on her bottom lip, not understanding herself why her heart raced with the excitement of a young girl beginning a new adventure.
Her promise to obey him completely vexed her. I’m about as mentally prepared for this as an elephant is to jump off a mountain and fly. Fuck
Conor snapped his fingers in front of her face, startling her. She met his gaze, guiltily.
“None of that, ever, Alexandra. I will not allow you to disappear into your thoughts. If it happens again, I will punish you. Every time it happens, I will punish you. Now, you will answer my question. How do you believe I am going to silence your mind?”
“I’m embarrassed by the answer, Sir.” She dropped her gaze and blushed. “It is only a hunch, no statistical proof, no probability curve, just a hunch that if you have complete control of my body and my conscious thoughts, my deep mind processes will be free.”
“For the duration of your pregnancy.”
“For the duration of forever, Sir. If my mind can be calm, silent, I want to be yours. Even when I am back on my meds, my babies safely born, and life returned to some semblance of normal.”
Conor lifted her chin and looked deep into her eyes.
Alexandra whispered, “What do you see, Sir?”
“What else, Sir?”
“Fear and a promise you have no business making. Before you promise me forever, try to make it through a few days of deep submission. You have no idea what you are going to be thinking or feeling by the end.”
“In three days, seven days, or a hundred days I will still crave silence like a drug, Sir. The inside of my brain is very loud.”
“What is it you hunger for most, Alexandra? Is it the restraint, the pain, or the humiliation I give you?”
“The restraint brings immediate relief,” Alexandra answered softly, remembering the times he’d called her his slut
, his dirty girl
and promised I am going to fuck you so hard
. She confidently added, “My physical response is greater with the humiliation.”
He pinched her nipples hard and pulled. She arched toward him, needing him to peer into her soul and see the truths she couldn’t admit. He said softly, “You crave the pain. I know the look in your eyes is one of an addict. I also know you’ve broken many drug addictions and lived to tell the tale. A compulsion toward pain is not so easy to break.”
“Then it will be what it will be, Sir. Make me your pain slut, so that when I am again free of danger I can go back to Gabe’s rope, and you’ll have no fear I’ll stay away long.”
“You’re implying you will beg me for pain the way you once begged for drugs.”
“Is that such a damning prospect, Sir?”
Conor silenced her with his mouth, wrapping his fingers in her hair to kiss her forcefully. Alexandra pushed into the kiss, demanding even more.
When they parted, she demanded, “You will not interfere with me going to him as his wife, Sir.”
“Of course not, but it will be on my timetable—subject to my instruction, under my direction, and completely under my discretion—as to whether you will go to him for one minute, one hour, or one day.”
She remembered Gabe holding his hand out to her—a hundred times over the years—and she’d always placed her hand in his. She tried to imagine herself with her three men, and Gabe extending his hand as he always had, but not being able take it until she’d met Conor’s gaze and acquiesced to his nod or refusal.
She frowned, trying to accept that as her future, but her heart refused to obey her mind’s decision that the only way the puzzle worked was to establish tightly controlled roles within the ménage.
Her heart squeezed as she reviewed the facts again. I am Jonathon’s Domme. Gabe is Jonathon’s Master. Conor is the lover Jonathon neither commands nor submits to.
No, that isn’t right.
Domme or Dom would have had to approve Jonathon and Conor’s intimacy.
She blinked and met Conor’s gaze. “Sir?”
Conor sighed and stroked her face. “I can tell your mind is in overdrive. For this to work, you must allow your mind to be free. Focus only on me.”
“I am thinking about you, Sir.”
He narrowed his eyes. “How so?”
“I am Jonathon’s Domme. Gabe is his Dom. Did Gabe give Jonathon permission to have intimacy with you beyond the ménage à quatre?”
“Don’t make everything more difficult than it has to be.”
“So, it just happened
? Randomly, with no permission granted from either?”
“Mo chroí, as your Dom, I could command you to drop it.”
“You won’t, because you are a good and fair Dominant. You’re also more intelligent than you wish me to believe you are and understand my mind will not be silenced as long as a puzzle remains unsolved.”
Conor didn’t interrupt her.
“You wish for me to believe there are parallels between Jonathon’s dynamic and mine, but there is a flaw, because I will be required to adhere to a deeper Dominance to you, than Jonathon follows with Gabe or me.” Alexandra exhaled frustration, but her mind had already accepted that her needs had been identical to Jonathon’s when he was in a life-and-death crisis, and she’d commanded him to live, to just keep breathing, and he had.
It was then her mind grabbed hold of the idea she needed someone in her life who could wield the same power over her. While she needed all three men to complete her, she needed the strongest and most capable Dom to control her physically and mentally. It couldn’t be Gabe. It had to be Conor. Until I’m back on my meds
She closed her eyes, wanting to pretend she would be given freedom from her meds, but over the years that had been proven quite impossible, so she wouldn’t allow herself to even begin to dream for that particular miracle. The only dream her mind had room for was safely bringing home two healthy babies.
He repeated her name again, and she replied, “Yes, Sir,” as she opened her eyes.
“Yes, Sir?” Conor repeated.
“I have solved the puzzle in my mind and discovered the only parallel that matters, Sir. I submit. No more fighting. For now, you are held above the others, as you wish.”
“Do you want me to say forever, Sir? I cannot commit myself beyond the birth of my babies and their safe homecoming to Cincinnati. I am still a tool being used by my government.”
Conor gripped her chin and made it painful when she refused to meet his gaze. “If you tell me you still entertain the notion you are going to be the great martyr in your sacrifice to save the world, I will bring Dr. Orlaith Ó Baoighealláin in here this minute and have her start your meds.”
Alexandra met his gaze angrily. “You would risk our babies?”
He stared hard at her.
She exhaled and let every muscle go slack so that he fully supported her with the tight hold on her jaw. “Why is sacrificing myself to save an entire world the wrong goal, Sir? Help me to see it through your eyes.”
Conor pushed her back against the pillows and covered her body with his. He stroked her face so tenderly, easing his fingers over her brows and the bridge of her nose to release the tension she held in her face. He kissed her more gently than he ever had. “I’m not forbidding you from saving the world, Alexandra. I’m forbidding you from putting yourself in danger to kill only one puppet master. There will always be another villain. That is the world we live in now.”
He kissed her again before whispering against her mouth. “There is only one you. And you are my world.”
Alexandra exhaled the breath she’d been holding. She felt like her heart was overflowing. She could see it in her mind clearly: her heart, so bursting with blood it was blown up like a balloon, trying to beat, until suddenly the pressure released, and like a balloon filled with air but not tied off, it would sputter wildly and try to break free from its arterial chains.
“Let me be your entire world. For this moment in time. Make me your world. You keep trying to put stipulations on your submission, on your service. It cannot be.”
My entire world? Not Gabe. Not Jonathon. Not my babies. Not my life’s work
. Not my archenemy. Conor. Sir. Master. He, entire world—not for a few days—from now until he releases me. That’s the only way the puzzle works. That is how I get out of this alive. That is how the babies survive
Alexandra nodded, feeling a very real pain in her chest.
I’m not dying…
She could see her heart clearly in her mind, and she took control of the images warped by her illness to see her heart beating perfectly, the blood flowing in and out, pumping not only through her, but through her babies as well. Suddenly her mind filled with the horrific images of too many nightmares, and she knew so much more rested on Conor’s ability to control her than he realized. “You want to be my entire world. You want to consume my every thought.”
That is how we all get out of this alive.
Suddenly, different puzzle pieces took rein, and the information that had been percolating for months burst forward with renewed clarity.
Alexandra heard Conor’s question, but she was busy, too busy for mindless instruction. She floated through her memories.
“No?” Conor roared.
She met his gaze. “Not you, not your words, Sir. I need a minute. I need—”
“No, Alexandra! Do not retreat inside your mind! I forbid…”
Whatever else he said was lost when she dived deep within herself.
I have all the puzzle pieces
Everything fell perfectly together as she pulled up in her mind the properties of the molecular formula for Dr. Chu’s highly lethal hybrid of human immunodeficiency virus. Chu’s strain combined a hybrid of rabies, which revved up the speed of complete brain destruction from a few weeks to a few days, with a hybrid of influenza, which allowed the disease to be spread by germs on surfaces, by coughing or sneezing, and by transfer of body fluids.
When she’d studied Chu’s hybrid through the lens of her sealed microscope, the genius of the disease proved beautifully mesmerizing as the disease’s cell walls mutated many generations, making it impossible to create a vaccine, because by the time the vaccine was made for generation A, the disease would have already become generation Z.
Alexandra thought she knew two of the components of her madman’s new disease: hybrids for the common cold and the Singapore Asian flu. Post hybridization, all the pieces fit neatly, perfectly—
Her head snapped to the side, and she realized Conor had slapped her hard enough to pull her out of her thoughts. She struggled to hang on to the fragmented pieces of the equation—
She screamed with outrage as she returned fully to the present. Conor was shaking her shoulders, and someone was pounding on the door. “Open this door! Now!”
Alexandra met his gaze. “I’m fine, Sir. Tell them I am fine.”
“They won’t believe me, mo chroí.” He stroked her face. “Not if I don’t believe it.”
. She tried to reach for him, but realized her hands were behind her back, bound together by heavy leather cuffs.
“I understand, Sir.” Alexandra rolled and left the bed. She walked to the door and said in a loud, confident voice. “Step away from the door, please.”
The pounding stopped.
. She asked, “Is Gabe with you?”
“Yes, and Dr. Orlaith.”
“I will open the door, but do not attempt to enter. Agreed?”
“Open. The. Door. Alexandra.”
She pressed her face to the doorframe. “Agree to the terms, mo ghrá
She purposely used my love
, his favorite endearment for her, and although she could tell by his tone it was a chore, he ground out the word “Agreed.”
More softly she said, “I need assurances from all of you.”
Jonathon and Orlaith both echoed, “Agreed.”