What happens when lovers face-off in the courtroom? Six months of hell.
Not only has Russell been without his woman, he’s also had to put up with her kicking his ass all over the courtroom. Well, the trial is over.
His woman, his sub, has managed to do what no one else could—beat him. Now it’s time to remind her of who is really in charge.
Valerie’s seen a side of Russell she doesn’t like. Gone is the caring lover and Dom who captured her heart. In his place is a vicious
opponent who will stop at nothing to win. If he thinks he can take that attitude with her outside the legal arena, Valerie has news for him.
Yeah, she’s missed him, craved him, even while she hated seeing Courtroom Russell, but she refuses to allow him to charge back into her life
with that chip on his shoulder.
If all that weren’t enough, someone determines justice will be done, even if that means killing everyone involved in the case.
Russell knew he’d find her here.
Fate and the local branch of the American Bar Association had placed his
sweetest wet-dream-turned-worst-nightmare across the room.
Who was he kidding? He’d hoped Valerie would be here. Prayed even, while an
unrelenting erection had threatened to trip him in his rush to get ready for
the event. All the praying in the world wasn’t enough to quell the persistent
ache swamping his groin. He’d beaten off twice in a frenzied attempt to quell
his penis enough so he could zip his trousers without amputating the sucker. It
didn’t stay flaccid long. His dick grew in aching intensity with every mile he
put behind him and threatened to charge into the ballroom without him once he
arrived at the Suites Hotel. It hurt like a son of a bitch and wasted no time
homing in on the object of his frustration, sniffing her out like a wolf did
its prey. Need consumed his soul—hungry, dark, feral. If Russell didn’t have
her tonight, insanity threatened to eat him alive. She would be his
again. She would know who was in charge.
Russell pulled in a deep breath, ordering the craving to cease and desist. He
hated these events. No matter how high-profile this event was, the only reason
for being here was for her. There were a hell of a lot of better ways to spend
a Friday night than schmoozing, and he planned to spend it with her. But
Russell played the game. Pasted on a fake smile until his face hurt. Shook
hands with people he didn’t like. Ate the too-rare prime rib. And had to listen
over and over and over again about the case that had finally ended this
morning. He’d waited long enough. It was growing later by the second, and his
window of opportunity would be closing soon. It was time to make his move,
before he was drawn into yet another discussion.
So far Valerie hadn’t noticed him standing at the bar, his hand wrapped around
two fingers of bourbon on ice to give him something other than her on which to
focus. It hadn’t worked. It never would. Valerie was ingrained in his bones, a
part of his soul. Doing without her these last six months was a hell of its own
making. Having her kick his ass all over the courtroom was a frustration beyond
belief. Her win over him was the last straw.
He ground his teeth until his jaw hurt. He hadn’t become a deputy district
attorney by sitting around with his thumb up his ass. No, he was competitive
and appreciated the challenge of a worthy opponent. He knew Valerie would be as
good a match in court as they were in bed. On some level, he’d envisioned the
battle to come as foreplay for when they were reunited. That was on Day One.
Six months later, she’d handed him his ass on a silver platter, doing what no
one else had—taken him down.
Valerie had warned him from the start it would be a no-holds-barred attack to
win her case. Peers told him she was a tigress in the courtroom, that he’d met
his match. But this was his woman. His woman, for crying out loud.
Hubris was a harsh mistress.
Not once had Valerie let their private and oh-so-secret relationship spill into
the workplace. She never backed down. Never blinked. Never caved on the
agreement they’d made to stay away from each other while they battled in court.
Damn, he’d missed her, even while she’d pissed him off.
Russell slowly hauled in another breath through his nostrils, as if by doing
so, he could taste her scent from across the room. Her thick blonde hair
drifted past her shoulders. Gone was the prim French twist she’d worn for
courtroom battle. Yet professionalism still oozed from her pores in the
obligatory little black dress she wore. High heels stretched her legs to
perfection, accentuating the cut of her calves. This was a woman who took care
of herself. A woman who excelled at everything she did. It was a fact he didn’t
fully appreciate until they’d gone head-to-head.
He set his bourbon aside, untouched. There was no doubt about his next course
of action. They’d lost too much time. This damn dry spell would end tonight. He
didn’t want any alcohol to cloud his control or obscure his senses. He wanted
to feel everything and lose himself in her a thousand times over—after he
tossed her over his knee and paddled her bottom for driving him insane these
last six months.
He strode toward his objective, confident he was about to get what he wanted.
Russell also wasn’t above a bit of coercion either. Hell, he’d drag her off to
the nearest restroom and fuck her against the wall if he had to. Satisfaction
would be his—theirs—once more. All those lust-filled fantasies that had been spawned
since the day they’d stepped into opposing corners would finally be fulfilled.
He’d plunge his fingers into her dampness and watch her shudder to orgasm. Feel
the clutch of her body around his cock—something he’d craved more than his next
meal. Yes, Valerie Oswald was finally going to be his again tonight. This time,
he wasn’t going to let go.
She glanced up as he neared, her brown eyes bright and welcoming, a smile
perched on her lips. Both dimmed when she realized it was him. Her skin flushed
a delicate shade of pink, hard nipples thrust against her black dress, and her
breath quickened. He imagined her slick and hot for him, clit hardening with
every second that ticked by. Fantasies of him falling to his knees before her
and burrowing his face between her legs—right here, right now—overwhelmed him.
He flexed his shoulders to shore himself against the image. He was supposed to
be in charge, not Valerie. It wouldn’t do to let her know that at this moment,
she ruled supreme.
The man by her side, Conrad Anson, turned Russell’s way. They’d known each
other for years, often on opposing sides of the courtroom. Now Conrad had the
catbird seat of California Superior Court Judge.
“Russell, you made it.” Conrad lifted his highball glass Russell’s way in greeting.
His other hand pressed against Valerie’s lower back.
Russell fought the instinct to yank it away. Valerie was his. Well, she had
been six months ago. At least in his mind and heart. What if she’d moved on?
Found someone else to fulfill her needs? He hadn’t counted on that. She’d need
relief from the pressures just as he did. He’d been able to alleviate some of
his tension by helping Bev at Renard’s. But he never crossed the line by having
sex with those he trained in the lifestyle, despite the pressure to do so. It
was Valerie who held his heart, and apparently other parts of him as well at
the moment. Valerie who had the true control and had placed it lovingly into
his hands. That was what Russell needed to remember, not this quest to show her
who was boss. Because with Valerie it wasn’t about who had the power. It was
how they exchanged it, shared it, and made it their own. A slight doubt wiggled
its way into his mind. What if she no longer felt the same way? What if the
trial pressure had been so much to bear, she’d gone elsewhere? What if he’d
lost her? To Conrad? Surely not. Conrad was no match for a woman of
Fear gave way to resentment. Fantasies were one thing, encroaching on another
man’s turf quite another. Conrad was a flirt, had little respect for personal
space, and everyone knew it was all harmless. But if Conrad didn’t get his hand
off Valerie right that second…
“Wouldn’t miss it, Conrad.” Smiling, Russell accepted the greeting with a
slight nod while his eyes drank their fill of her. Valerie toyed with her
wineglass stem and looked everywhere but at him, casually yet pointedly
ignoring him. The diamond earrings he’d given her last Christmas sparkled in
the light. Odd, the power that gave him. He deemed it proof that she cared. Why
else wear his gift?
Because they’re a damn fine piece of jewelry, idiot.
Russell shrugged off his conscience’s reproach.
“You might want to keep a low profile.” Conrad scanned the room, then leaned
in. “Alden Baker’s pissed as hell that defense made her case and won.”
His voice was meant for their ears only, low, conspiratorial. Dread crawled up
Russell’s spine. It didn’t bode well to have a superior court judge angry, not
to mention prejudiced in the outcome of a case.
“I never knew what the color puce looked like until I saw him afterward,”
Conrad continued. “Hilarious as it was to see him in all his states, I thought
you both needed to know to watch your backs. He’s been like a bear with a sore
ass since his divorce and getting worse the more time passes. It doesn’t take
much to set him off anymore. Personally, I thought the two of you did one hell
of a job. I was very impressed with your work and professionalism, and I’m not
the only one. I see big things in your futures. But then”—he smiled—“I always
It was nice to know some people were still on his side. Russell’s boss was none
too happy with the verdict either. Which was an understatement compared to how
Russell felt. Valerie had been hell on wheels, presenting a case that had even
Russell believing her client was not guilty.
“Thank you, Conrad. I appreciate knowing all that. I hate to tear you away from
such lovely company, but I’d like a word with my worthy opponent. We have some
business to discuss.”
Conrad straightened and raised his glass again. “Lighten up. It’s supposed to
be a social event. Play nice. Save the saber rattling for the courtroom.”
Valerie leveled lusty eyes in Russell’s direction and flashed a smile that both
threatened and promised. “Come now, Conrad. Where’s the fun in that?” she
Russell matched her stare. Despite the wordplay, her grip on the wineglass
threatened to snap the stem. She caved first. Her gaze drifted downward,
submissive. Just the way he wanted her. He watched her pulse flutter at her
throat and imagined it beating against his tongue.
She started to take a sip of wine. Russell took the liberty of extracting the
glass from her grip. It wouldn’t do to have her inebriated. There would be no
excuses of I was drunk and wasn’t in my right mind. No, he wanted her
clearheaded and very aware.
Conrad’s laughter carried over the crowd noise.
Valerie’s gaze snapped to the people who surrounded them. Her flush deepened.
“Unfortunately, I was just leaving. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Russell hooked her elbow when she tried to dart away. “It won’t take long.
Perhaps we can find someplace more private.” Conrad could think what he wanted
of that request.
“In a crowd this large, I doubt that’s possible.” She flexed her arm, subtly
removing herself from Russell’s hold. “Perhaps another time. Gentlemen.” A
regal nod signaled her departure. She walked away before Russell could stop
her. If he followed her now, he’d look like an idiot.
“History?” Conrad asked.
“Something like that.” Russell wasn’t ready to blow Conrad’s mind with the
truth. He and Valerie couldn’t take the risk of losing their jobs. For now
their relationship—if they still had one—had to remain between the two of them.
He monitored her progress across the room. The second she walked out, purse in
hand, he was hot on her heels. Valerie was quicker. He lost her in the parking
lot. A hard breeze obscured the sound of footsteps. The beep of car locks
disengaging gave away what he hoped was her location. He snapped his head to
the right, caught sight of her blonde hair, and jogged toward her, reaching her
before she could open the door of her silver Ford Escape.
“You’re still as persistently stubborn as ever,” she said without turning
“Determined.” Russell leaned forward, pressing her into the car as he reached
for the handle.
Her breath caught, yet she made no move to stop him. “To do what? Bind me for
your pleasure, or mine? Or give me the fucking of my life?”
Russell’s erection swelled to life. Hot, hard, and more than ready for action.
He could raise her little black dress right now, shove the crotch of her
panties to one side, plunge deep inside her, and let her tight muscles do him
“Isn’t it all the same thing?”
“It was once.” She opened the driver’s door, subtly forcing him back. “Now I’m
not so sure.” Valerie slid into the driver’s seat.
“Like hell.” Being calm took hard-won skill. She was frustrating the devil out
of him. This wasn’t how things were supposed to work.
He wedged himself in the opening to keep her from shutting the door. “We have
“Do we?” She curved one eyebrow his way as she stabbed the key into the
ignition. “I would have thought after six months you’d be coming to me for
pleasure, not business.”
Russell stumbled over his thoughts, just like he had in the courtroom when
she’d challenged him unaware.
“Or have you been taking care of that need on your frequent visits to
He hovered between denial and defensiveness, choosing a point somewhere
between. “How would you know about that if you hadn’t been yourself?”
“That’s a nonanswer if ever I heard one.” She snapped her seat belt into place
and started the engine. “Women talk, especially when it’s about a man like you.
Teri Trent’s been very informative.”
Little bitch. Teri, not Valerie. First chance he got, Russell would
inform Bev. Privacy was paramount for her business. Teri had violated that rule
in spades. If she’d blabbed to Valerie, who else could she have told?
He squatted down to Valerie’s level, almost on his knees, a subservient
position that went against every dominant gene in his body. God, what the hell
had she done to him?
“She’s lying, Valerie.”
He curled his fingers over her knee and slid his hand up her thigh. Her warmth
beckoned him. The catch in her breath and taut nipples gave him hope.
She clamped her thighs shut against further invasion. “Red light.”
It was a verbal slap in the face he hadn’t anticipated. He didn’t appreciate
being put in his place, even if he did deserve it. Russell obeyed the safeword,
though, and pulled his hand free, resuming his stance over her. Despite the
dominant position, he’d never felt more vulnerable.
“Now step away, and let me leave.”
“You’ve been drinking.”
“No. You saw to that when you took my glass.”
“You leave when I say so and not a second sooner.” What the hell was
wrong with him? He knew the second the words were out that it wasn’t the tone
to take with her. Instinct made him clasp his hands in front of his crotch.
Valerie’s gaze narrowed. Lips thinned. “I said ‘red light,’ and I damn well
meant it. If you think I’m going to give up my control to a man who can’t even
maintain his own… You know what? We’re done here. I don’t need you. I can do
Stunned, Russell jerked away. Valerie slammed the door shut, eased from the
parking slot, and made her way from the lot with a careful pace that felt like
another slap in the face. One proving she had the control, not him.
The hell of it was—it was true. He had lost control, almost from the
start of all this. He’d told himself it was Valerie who would cave first and
come to him. She never had. It had driven him to distraction. Undermined
everything he did. She could do better than him, but he couldn’t live without
her. It pissed him off. Fault, it seemed, was primarily on his shoulders. The
hell of that was—he still wanted her more than he could bear.