“I bet you’re completely regretting saying yes to this now.”
She shook her head. “I shouldn’t have.”
“Yes, you shouldn’t have.” She’d backed herself into a wall and Balthazar reached her in two steps. She flinched when Balthazar spread one hand on the wall beside her head. He shifted his weight there as he leaned over her and whispered, “You smell like roses.”
“I-i-it’s the bath water. They used rose oil,” she stammered. Having Balthazar so close frazzled her brain. He seemed bigger somehow. Like he’d grown ten feet since she'd last seen him. And so broad too. When did his shoulders and chest get so broad?
Balthazar touched the tip of his nose to the base of her neck and traced a line up to her jaw, inhaling as he went. The move sent Arianne slumping against the wall for support, her knees threatening to give way beneath her. She raised her shackled hands until they spread over the center of his chest. She clutched at the buckles there, the cool metal digging in to her palms. Balthazar tsked after he’d pulled away far enough to stare into her eyes—eyes now lined with kohl. She found herself shaking her head along with him.
“You shouldn’t have spoken over me the way you did,” he said with the softest threat. The kind that sent tingles down her spine.
“I didn’t.” At least she didn’t stammer anymore. Instead, her voice sounded breathy, which seemed so much worse.
He touched her lips with the tip of his finger. “Oh, but you did. I'd pretty much convinced Solara that you didn’t need to change for the Underball, but you had to go and ruin it by agreeing without my consent. Not that I’m complaining.” He raked his gaze over her body again. Like a bomb exploding, Arianne felt all her blood rise to the surface. “But something has to be done about this master/slave relationship we have here.”
“W-w-what do you mean?” Great, the stammering returned. The muscles in her abdomen quivered in the most delicious way. Arianne tried to ignore it and focus, but her body betrayed her more and more the longer Balthazar stood this close to her. She only noticed now, so close to him, that he smelled like sandalwood. The spicy earth scent brought her back to the time her mother burned incense around the house. She went through a whole New Age-y phase before Carrie got sick. Standing a nose away from Balthazar sent a sense of comfort surging through her body with a hint of something more. A feeling Arianne didn’t care to acknowledge. Hot. Drugging. Dangerous. She knew if she let herself cross the line she wouldn’t find her way back.
Balthazar moved his hand from the wall to her cheek. Arianne fought against leaning in to the touch. Even with the fingerless gloves, she could feel the warmth of his hand. The calluses on his exposed skin didn’t feel rough on her face at all.
“You put us both in danger if you don’t act like an obedient slave, Ari.” He whispered her name like the sweetest candy on the tongue. A part of her wished he’d say it again. The other part of her struggled to continue the conversation.
“I won’t disobey you. I promise.” And she meant it too.
“Remember when I said you shouldn’t force me into teaching you a lesson about what it means to have a master?”
She nodded. They’d had that conversation right before they entered the Voyeur mansion. Balthazar had warned her, yet she’d forgotten all about it the second Solara came into the room with her demons. Arianne thought she’d done something good by agreeing. Unfortunately, her good deed backfired in the most frightening yet insanely delicious way.
She hardly recognized the guy standing before her. The sarcasm and gruff nature had disappeared, leaving behind someone who oozed sex appeal like some cologne he’d sprayed on. Heat pooled inside her stomach, causing every muscle below it to clench. If Balthazar didn’t step away now, she’d find herself flat on the floor.
“You know what happens now, don’t you?” His eyes locked with hers again. His voice grew even softer.
She shook her head into his touch.
“I punish you.”
The way he said punish blew the last of her knees’ power to support her body weight. The second she began to slide down the wall, Balthazar’s other arm snaked around her waist and pulled her forward until her body fused against his. Every buckle that touched her skin made her shiver.
She looked up and Balthazar’s lips descended.