“I might.” He took another swallow of wine, a bite of pasta, another swallow of wine, and a bite of bread. “Eat. You’ll need your strength, love. I guarantee you that.”

I ate, feeling a clench in my core at the implication in his words. I couldn’t help pushing him. “You wouldn’t really, though. You’re too dignified for that.”

He only spared me a brief glance. “Wouldn’t what?”

“Carry me off caveman-style.”

“Oh, no?” Roth quirked an eyebrow at me, as if amused, then glanced away, toward the kitchen. “MARCO!”

Marco came scurrying. “Signore?”

“Box this up for us. Cork the wine as well.” He glanced at me, his eyes sparking pale blue fire. “Something has…come up.”

“Certainly, of course. May I ask, is everything—”

“It is wonderful, as always, Marco. Kyrie and I merely have some…personal business to attend to.”

Marco shifted in place uncomfortably, perhaps realizing what Roth meant. “Of course, sir. Un momento, per favore.” He bustled away quickly, calling out in Italian.

Roth, meanwhile, merely continued to eat leisurely, chasing each bite with a small sip of wine. I tried to emulate him, acting unconcerned and casual, but I was entirely unsuccessful. I wasn’t afraid, per se, knowing he would never actually hurt me, but I was nervous, anxious, wondering if he really was about to sling me over his shoulder like some kind of ape-man. That would be embarrassing, to say the least.


I ate a few more bites and finished the thick ruby wine in my glass, just as Marco was returning with carryout cartons. He swiftly and efficiently boxed up the food, stacking the containers in a paper bag, then stuffed the cork into the bottle of wine and placed that in the bag as well. He made a face of disapproval as he corked the bottle.

“This wine, signore, it should not sit this way for long, it must breathe—”

Roth slid smoothly out of the booth and stood up, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin. “Yes, Marco. I understand. Thank you.” He pulled his wallet from the inside pocket of his blazer, rifled through the bills, and then, with an impatient huff, simply tossed the entire stack on the table.

I saw, at one quick glance, at least five or six hundred-dollar bills, and that was merely what was on the bottom. There had to be a thousand dollars there, I surmised. Before I could process another thought, Roth had replaced his wallet and was turning to me. I moved out of the booth and stood up, straightened my dress, and moved toward the door.

“Oh, no, you don’t.” Roth’s voice was quiet yet laced with potency.


He didn’t let me finish. He stepped in front of me, ducked his shoulder, and swept me up. I shrieked in protest as my belly hit his shoulder, but then we were moving through the low, narrow hallway and out the door. I caught a glimpse of Marco, watching, stunned, by the booth, the stack of bills forgotten in his hand.

Outside, the night was warm and still, the driving wind from earlier in the day having abated. I had barely a second to process the sounds of New York—horns, voices, air brakes squealing, sirens in the distance— and the smell of the alley—garlic and cooking food undercut by the sour-sickly tang of garbage—and then Roth was opening the passenger door with one hand, my entire weight on his shoulder, his arm across my thighs holding me in place.

“Put me down!” I hissed. “I believe you, okay?”

“Too late for that.” He gave my ass a hard smack, hard enough to make me gasp as the sting of his palm shot through me. “Far too late.” Another smack, on the other side, this one hard enough to startle me into an undignified squeak of protest.

“All right! I’m sorry!” In the spirit of the moment, I pounded on his back with my fists, the only correct thing to do when slung over a man’s shoulder.

“Sorry?” He sounded genuinely amused. “You don’t need to be sorry. You didn’t do anything wrong. You simply challenged me out of the last of my self-control.” He smoothed his palm over my still-stinging ass, and then gave me a third hard slap, this one bordering on actual pain.

And then he pulled me down, catching me in his arms and setting me with easy grace onto the passenger seat, handling me as if I were a sleepy, recalcitrant child. He even buckled me in, ignoring my indignant glare. He had the Bentley roaring out into traffic, and this time he drove recklessly, swinging out around slower moving cars, into oncoming traffic once, gunning the engine when there was an open space in the line of traffic.

I clutched at the armrest with white knuckles. “Roth, you don’t have to—”

“Not a word from you, Kyrie.” He didn’t look at me, his voice retaining quiet intensity. “One word out of you, and I’ll snap. I’ll pull into the nearest alley and f**k you where you sit. You’re flushed and nervous and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and you smell like expensive wine and good food and pu**y. I’m barely holding onto my restraint right now, so if you want our first time together to have anything like romance to it, then just shut it. All right, love?”

I only nodded and held on as Roth drove us through the thick late-evening traffic back to his building. He pulled into his private garage, touching a button to open the door as we approached. He had the car turned off and my door open before I could unbuckle, his hand in mine pulling me to my feet and tugging me to the elevator. As soon as the elevator doors opened, he slammed me up against the wall, hard enough to knock the breath from me momentarily. He turned a key, and the elevator lurched upward. His mouth crashed into mine, hungry and devouring, his tongue sweeping at the seam of my lips. His hands cupped my face with a gentility at odds with the fierce need of his kiss, and then his palms skated over my shoulders and down my waist to grip my hips, pulling me against him, pressing his erection hard against me. I moaned into his mouth, and his fingers clawed into the firm flesh of my hips, bunching up the cotton of my dress to grip the thick globes of my ass with both hands, his fingers hard and insistent and demanding. I gasped at the way his hands clutched at me, as if he couldn’t bear to hold back any longer, as if the last of his control had been exhausted.

“Roth…”. I whispered, pulling my mouth from his just enough to move my lips on his. “I’m not afraid. I want everything.”

The elevator doors slid open, and Roth spun me around, swept an arm under my thighs and lifted me, carried me across the hall and into his room, kicking the door closed with his heel. The glass walls let in city light and the burning squares of amber glow from the high-rises across the street. Still holding me in his arms, Roth somehow dug in his pocket, found his phone, swiped his thumb to unlock it and tap an app, touched another button, and the glass tinted to opacity. The room went dark, pitch-black in an instant. Suddenly, my other senses heightened. I felt his brawny arms under my legs and around my back, his abs tensed against my side, his hands firm and gentle. I smelled our dinner on his clothes, wine on his breath, the familiar spice of his cologne on his skin.