Page 8

He placed his mouth on her ear. “You want to give me something?”


“Then I’ll take your complete submission to me tonight.”

“Oh.” She paused. “You’re binding me?”

“Yes. And it will be a formal binding.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Master Black. But I accept your terms.”

“Perfect.” Ronin kissed her temple and handed her the package. “No peeking. Let’s eat before we head back.”

Sometimes during this trip Amery had been so quiet he wasn’t sure what was on her mind. But as they shared plates of pan-fried noodles with veggies and skewers of spicy tempura-fried chicken, she chattered away. While she waited for him she’d checked in with Molly. Evidently her office manager and her new graphic artist were doing just fine without the boss lady there.

Ronin tuned out for a moment, wondering how his second-in-command, Knox, was faring, working in the dojo with Shiori. Since he traveled to Japan twice a year, he’d learned it was easier not to worry about things that were out of his control. But leaving this time was different because Knox and Shiori fought like two tomcats—neither willing to back down. He should check in. . . but he figured it’d be a good test for him, and them, to see if they were capable of handling some of the duties he intended to hand over after he returned.


He glanced up. “Sorry. I don’t suppose Molly mentioned what’s going on at Black Arts?”

“Nothing beyond Yondan Deacon being a sadistic asshole for claiming she needed to ‘toughen up’ in his Muay Thai class.”

“I’m surprised she’s still going to classes. His dropout rate for men is high because they can’t hack it.”

“Hah!” She pointed her chopsticks at him. “Deacon the Destroyer won’t let her drop out. Molly tried. After she skipped class he showed up at her apartment with a heavy bag and sparring equipment. Twice.”

Ronin froze. “Are you kidding me?”


“Why didn’t I know that?”

“Uh, because you’ve been mediating Knox and Shiori, you’ve been taskmaster for Katie the Kook, you’ve taken Ivan the Terrific under your wing, you’re strategizing training partnerships with Badass Blue, you’re running a dojo, building a fight promotion company, and dealing with health concerns.”

He lifted a brow. “Ivan the Terrific? Not Ivan the Terrible?”

“Ronin. The man is hot. Like seriously hot. There’s nothing terrible about him. Well, except for that mean face he makes when he loses during training. But when he smiles?” Amery sighed. “He’s back to being terrific.”

His wife fucking sighed. Over Ivan.

“Oh, don’t make that growling noise. You know I only have eyes for you.”

“Doesn’t sound like it. Sounds like someone has been breaking the ‘no observation’ rule again.”

“So punish me.” She smirked and scooped rice into her mouth.

“Oh, I intend to. Besides, you didn’t list the most distracting thing in my life.” Ronin ran the tips of his fingers up her arm, making sure to hit all the spots that made her tremble. “My beautiful wife.”

When their eyes met, a sense of urgency consumed him. He needed her. Needed to remind her how much stronger their connection grew every time he had her bound—which hadn’t been often recently.

Without breaking their eye contact, he shoved her plate aside and said, “You’re done.” He stood, threw a pile of bills on the table, and clasped her hand, towing her out of the restaurant.

They didn’t speak at all during the bus ride, but Ronin rested his palm at the base of her neck. He wanted his hold to impart the calming effect of his touch, and yet remind her that the heavy weight of his hand was as immobilizing as his rope.

As they made the fast walk back to the condo, he couldn’t help but notice the flush on her cheeks, the increased rate of her breathing, and the sheen of perspiration that teased him with her scent.

After he punched in the code and they were inside, Ronin cupped her face in his hands, forcing her attention only to him. “The binding tonight will take place outside on the patio.”

She hesitated a moment before saying, “Okay.”

“I’ll need half an hour to prepare.”

“Okay,” she said again.

“But first I want you to open your present.”

He was a little nervous as Amery delicately slipped the knotted ties down the plain brown paper. She folded the wrapper back to reveal the vibrant material.

Her gaze hooked his. “Is this what I think it is?”

“Open it and find out.”

She ripped into the package and gasped at the floral pattern created in brilliant hues. “It’s a kimono?”

“A yukata. A more casual kimono. I had it modified so it’s easier to put on than the traditional one.”

“And easier to take off,” she murmured, running her finger across the material.

“This fabric is sturdier than silk although it retains the look and feel of it.”

Amery looked up at him. “This is exquisite.”

“It’ll look even more exquisite on you.”

When she shook the garment out, another bundle of fabric tumbled free. “What’s this?”

“The matching robe.” He unfurled the pearlescent fabric that shimmered between pale pink and ivory. “I’ll have you wear the yukata another time. Tonight I want you in this because I want to try something new.”