Posted in Excerpts

Excerpt from Stepping Stones

Excerpt from Letting Go 2: Stepping Stones (Awakenings 5)


mz-a-steppingstones“What the hell are you doing?”

He glanced up, lifting a brow at her unusually colorful language. She almost never swore when they weren’t in a scene.

“Fixing the sprinkler head. It’s watering the side of the pool house instead of the grass.”

She stomped her foot, hating the gesture even though it made her feel a little better. “I mean last night. And this morning. If you’re mad at me, I wish you’d just yell or spank me or something.”

He rose to his feet, his lanky legs unfolding as he stood up, and wiped his hands on his jeans. “I’m not mad at you, Sabrina. You said you didn’t want to go. I’m respecting your wishes. Last night you were strung so tight I thought you were going to snap. I knew you weren’t going to fall asleep without help. And then when Ethan called for you and you didn’t get up, I figured you were exhausted, so I got him out of his crib and we let you sleep.”

No tension stiffened the lines and planes of his body. His olive gaze showed patience and a little bafflement. He truly wasn’t upset with her.

She shook her head in disbelief. The resort was something he’d talked about on and off for years. “You didn’t really want to go?”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. You don’t want to go, and I would never make you do anything you don’t want to do. I love you, honey. If we go, we go because we both want to be there.”

Oh, but she wanted to be there. She just wanted to not have stretch marks or sagging breasts first.

“Sabrina, what’s holding you back?”

Startled, she stared up at him. He’d always been able to read her. Sometimes that skill brought endless thrills. Other times it revealed secrets she’d rather keep to herself. Shaking her head, she said, “It’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing. You’re about ready to cry right now, and that’s not like you.”

It used to be like her to hold in her emotions, swallow whatever bothered her and pretend like it didn’t exist. She folded her arms over her chest. “I don’t think people should see me naked. It’s not a pleasing sight anymore.”

His dark blond brows shot nearly to his hairline. “You’re serious?”


* * * *


Though she was easily one of the most attractive women on the planet, Jonas knew better than to argue with her. She required proof, not words. So he narrowed his eyes, took a step closer, and went with a different strategy.

“Why does it matter what anybody but me thinks?” He didn’t add that he was her husband and her Dom, and his opinion was the only one that counted where she was concerned. There was no need.

Her eyes widened. Shades of brown swirled as she realized her mistake. She dropped her arms down by her sides and cast her gaze to her feet. “It doesn’t.”

Threading his fingers, grease and all, through the hair at the nape of her neck, he yanked hard to bring her gaze back to his. Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes, but they were the right kind. Her shoulders relaxed, and she gave herself over to his control.

“Clearly, it does. You’re refusing to go on a proper honeymoon with me because you think other people might not find you attractive. If you think I’m going to share you, you’re sadly mistaken. I will kill any man who touches you, Sabrina. Make no mistake, my opinion is the only one that matters, and I find you very attractive.”

“No, I didn’t mean that.” She scrambled to reassure him, and he had to suppress a smirk at how well she responded to his reassuring taunts. “I meant—I—I—Damn it, Jonas. I have stretch marks all over the place.”

He leaned down, not stopping until his face was inches away. “Each one of them proclaims to one and all that you belong to me. You’re my wife. My submissive. The mother of my children. You will wear them proudly as the badges they are.”

Perhaps that was pushing things a little far, but truthfully, he didn’t think they stood out. Maybe they would if he held a black light next to her skin, but he had no intention of doing so. From his frequent and close inspections, he knew she had a few on her inner thighs, her ass, and across her stomach, and maybe one or two on her breasts and hips. They were parts of her, and he loved all of her. And he knew better than to tell her about the ones on her ass. She hadn’t yet discovered them.

She trembled so hard he felt the shockwaves radiating across the small space between them. He knew she wanted him to treat her roughly, to make her forget about everything that was bothering her, but he refused to do that until everything was right between them.

“I’m just not as confident about this as you are.” She touched his shoulders and traced the line of his muscles over the triceps and biceps. “You’re still very toned and handsome. You can’t possibly know how I feel.”

The thing about being married to a smart woman was that she changed tactics mid-discussion. He resisted the urge to turn her over his knee. She’d like that too much. He knew she wanted to go. The brief gleam of excitement in her eyes told a different story from her mouth. If this was the only thing holding her back, then nothing was holding them back. He wasn’t going to allow this to derail his plans.

Instead of responding to her statement—there was no way to win using that avenue—he nodded, indicating that he’d reached an inarguable decision. “I’ve arranged for your mother and my parents to watch the kids. We leave in one week.”


He set his finger over her lips. “This discussion is over.”




Sabrina peeked out the window of her breakfast nook. In the distance, past the deck, the trellis bursting with tangerine and white roses, and a large expanse of lawn, the sun glinted on the water, beckoning her closer.

With the kids at her in-laws for the afternoon, she had some free time, and it had been a few days since she’d been able to get in a good, punishing workout in the water. She opted for a bikini—the hot-as-hell pool boy was due sometime today—grabbed a towel, and rushed to the pool.

As she got closer, she noticed the man with a long pole stuck into the water, and she slowed her pace. Too late. Now she would have to wait for the pool boy to finish cleaning it before she could swim.

With a sigh, she heaved herself onto a lounger and sent a baleful look in his direction. He wasn’t supposed to show up until later, after she’d worked out. She had plans to pull herself, dripping wet, out of the water, throwing her hair back so that the sun caught some of the highlights. She’d squeeze away the excess, letting it drip over her breasts to draw his gaze to the gentle swells there.

He’d ruined everything by showing up early. There was so little variety in her life. She spent most of the day looking after her one- and three-year-olds, and the chance to put herself on display to torment the pool boy was one opportunity she hated missing. While her afternoon wouldn’t be completely ruined, she did prefer to do things her way.

After all, a girl had to have fun, right? Her husband worked long hours and traveled all the time, so she had to get her kicks however she could.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Spencer.” He grinned at her from across the pool.

He wasn’t wearing a shirt. She spent some time admiring the way his lithe, lean muscles bunched and strained as he methodically worked his way toward the far end of the pool. The tan darkening his skin testified to many hours spent under the punishing rays of the sun.

Her gaze traveled lower, taking in the way his shorts hung low on his hips. Too low. One tug and she’d catch an eyeful. The hipbones jutting forward were tanned as well. It made her wonder if his gorgeous ass enjoyed the same freedom.

“Armand, I thought I told you to not wear those shorts anymore. They’re positively scandalous.” She spoke to him in a tone that managed to be both haughty and lazy. “And put a shirt on. My husband will not look kindly upon you if he sees you walking around here almost naked.”

He didn’t respond. Nothing in the set of his shoulders or the tilt of his mouth gave her a hint as to his reaction, but she knew he had one. She knew he’d heard her. He hadn’t stopped looking at her for a single second.

After forever, he extracted the vacuum from the pool and set it on the concrete patio. Ever so slowly, he rounded the pool, not stopping until his shadow loomed over her. This close, she could see the danger glittering from his olive-green eyes. They were hazel normally, but they tended toward green under most circumstances. When he was feeling amorous, they often turned topaz.

“Mrs. Spencer, your husband is half a world away. And you know as well as I do that you like when I wear these shorts. You think they’re sexy. After all, you bought them for me.” Like a cobra, his hand shot out. He caught the end of the string tied behind her neck to hold up her bikini top, and he tugged.

She felt the small pop that indicated it was no longer tied. She knew she should put her hands over the fabric to shield herself before he peeled the scrap of material away, but she was paralyzed by the hard expression on his face. The planes and angles that made up his face were what some might call handsome. She might think it, but she knew better than to say it to his face. And his lips were positively sensual. She imagined what they’d feel like traveling down her neck, sucking her nipple inside, and then slipping lower.

“Armand, this is highly inappropriate. My husband wouldn’t like this.”

The mask slipped away for a second, revealing Jonas’s humor at her remark. They hadn’t planned to role-play today. She knew he was pleased with her improvisation, and she loved how quickly he’d understood both what she was doing and what she wanted from him.

“He’s a busy man, your husband. I’m doing him a favor by putting you in your place.” With that, he tugged again, and the strings holding up her top came loose. “I’m going to make you beg, Mrs. Spencer.”

Oh lord, she was moist. It only took one look from him to make her knees weak, and he was using it on her now. Thank goodness they’d stocked the pool house with the necessary equipment.

She’d wrangled her hair into a braid to make it easier to get under her swim cap. Reaching back, he grasped her by the long rope and pulled, urging her to stand up. He turned her around, so that her back was to his front, and he guided her back against him. Only then did it become apparent exactly how hard his muscles were. Before she could think to struggle, he banded one iron arm around her midsection.

Because she was half a foot shorter, her head fit neatly under his chin. He rested it on her now, another tool to keep her close. “Last chance, Mrs. Spencer.”

“Really?” She didn’t honestly think he’d let her off the hook so easily. Men as dominant and virile as this didn’t take kindly to her haughtiness.

He chuckled, a low, sinister laugh. “No, not really. Your fate is sealed.”

With that, he peeled away the fabric clinging to her breasts and squeezed one hard, his callused palm scraping her sensitive skin. She whimpered with the effort it cost to not beg for more.

He ground his pelvis into her ass, and she realized he was hard and ready. That could only mean one thing.


I’m Michele Zurlo, author of over 20 romance novels. During the day, I teach English, and in the evenings, romantic tales flow from my fingertips.

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