Two of Cups
By Parker Kincade
Mason hated the desert.
Other than being hot as the devil’s ass crack, he swore he’d never be rid of the sand that had worked its way into his skin. From the tiny grains that snuck into his boots each day to the dusting he swallowed off his coated lips each time he’d managed to stop long enough to eat. Hell, cut him and he’d probably bleed the shit.
One thing was for sure―he’d never long for a vacation on the beach again.
Under the cover of darkness, Mason dug in his heels and pushed himself up and over the jutted rock formation. He rolled to his belly and snaked around until he could see the roof of the compound below.
It had all come down to this.
He’d given up his life, his future, the woman he loved beyond measure—all because of the evil fuck bedded down in the building below.
Omar Travinskov was the scum of the earth as far as Mason was concerned. He traded in drugs, women, and children, and used all three at his leisure. Each time Mason, and the team of special operatives he’d been assigned to, had caught up to Omar, the bastard would slip through their fingers. Over and over.
For eight fucking years.
Slippery motherfucker had connections all over the world. Men and women who were either too stupid to care, or too scared to say no. The fact that Omar had run here, to the middle of the Afghan desert, had caused Mason’s bosses some concern. With the financial backing Omar could provide, he could prove to be real trouble in this part of the world.
Omar had probably believed the war in this area would render him invisible, thought no one would bother with him here. He was about to get a rude awakening.
Mason felt no guilt for what his team was about to do—what he was about to do―because it was his job to get the ball rolling, so to speak. The only life Omar valued was his own, and Mason was more than willing to rid him of that miserable asset.
“Yo, Steele. You taking a nap over there, bro? We go in five.”
The voice in Mason’s comm link tickled his ear. He raised his middle finger into the air, knowing he’d be seen through the scope Jace, the team’s spotter, used. “Bite me, slick. We could go in two and I’d be ready.”
Mason was an expert in explosives. Setting the charges had been the easy part. The hard part would be holding his position while the others went in. He wanted to be down there, protecting the backs of the men who’d become his brothers, but his job was no less important than theirs. He’d placed several of the small, lightweight demolition devices he’d developed over the last eight years. Timing was everything with these little babies, and he had to be the one to detonate.
“Let’s finish this, boys,” came the voice of their team leader, followed by a round of various whispers of affirmation. The sense of closure in the air was palpable. They all knew this was it. They had him. Dead or alive, Omar was theirs tonight.
Then they were going home.
Mason was more than ready to see if he could salvage the life he’d left behind.
My beautiful Kenna.
Eight long years.
His lip twitched as he pulled a device from his pocket; he caressed the warm, plastic cover with affection. This little baby would be his salvation, in more ways than one.
“Let’s do this.”
* * * *
Mac paused from dipping amaretto-soaked cherries in white chocolate and glanced over her shoulder. “Yes?”
“Delivery.” The young man indicated a garment bag draped over his arm and large envelope in his hands.
She shook her head. “I think you have the wrong—”
“Makenna Blackwell? Owner of Private Nights Catering?”
She nodded slowly. “That’s me.”
He held the items out. “Delivery.”
“What the…” It was all she could manage as the kid shoved the items into her arms and promptly made his way out of the kitchen.
Rick, her business partner and dearest friend, grinned and moved in beside her. “I think someone has a secret admirer.”
Mac set the garment bag and envelope aside. “Don’t you have work to do? Those figs aren’t going to cut themselves, you know.”
He picked up a knife. “Rumor is, each invitation includes a tarot card. Half of a tarot card, actually. The invitee is supposed to find the person with the other half of their card, and that person will serve as their date for the evening. Isn’t that a fantastic way to break the ice? Meet new people?”
“Sounds risky.” She turned the invitation over in her hand, testing the weight … stalling. Why the hell would she be invited to a party she was catering? She had no interest in dating, let alone hooking up with anyone. It wouldn’t be fair. She loved another man, and she was done pretending that she didn’t.
Mason Steele―the man who’d taken her virginity when she was sixteen and loved her more fiercely than any man had since. He’d left for boot camp the day after he’d made love to her. The next two years consisted of stolen moments during his weekend leaves. They’d made plans. She’d expected to spend her life with him. She’d believed the fight they had the last time they’d spoken would be just like the others. They would cool off and then spend hours making it up to each other. Mason always made the making up more than worth the argument.
Time does funny things to one’s memory. Mac couldn’t even remember what the fight had been about. But she did remember that had been the last time she’d heard from him.
In her heart, she’d believed there had to be a reasonable explanation for his silence. He loved her. She’d been young—they both had been—but she’d never doubted what they had together. A love like theirs changes a person.
It sure as hell changed her. She’d never been able to find another man who even came close to making her feel what Mason made her feel. Lord knew she’d tried.
After a year of jumping every time the phone rang, she’d had enough. She’d picked herself up, moved from her small town in Alabama, and attended culinary school in New York. It was there she’d met Rick. He’d been so good to her, helping her with the ugly process of moving on. Finished with love, she tried to lose herself in sex, desperate to find what she’d lost after Mason left her. When that had failed, she’d thrown herself into her work, and she and Rick had opened Private Nights Catering.
Sensual delights were their specialty. Their menu had somehow gained the attention of the owner of Dacre House, who had hired them to come to New Orleans to cater his exclusive party.
“Sounds deliciously exotic and fun. Open it, Mac. The host is rumored to know things.”
She wiped her hands. “What? Like psychic, magic stuff?” She broke the seal and pulled out the pristine sheet of white linen. She didn’t care if the host was the king of all things hoodoo, as long as he paid them what he’d promised. She reached back into the envelope and pulled out the tarot card. A whole tarot card.
“It’s all very mysterious, don’t you think?” Rick asked. “The man hired us, yet we’ve only talked to his assistant, Mr. Benoit. Stuffy old bastard, that one. So formal and … pale. Anyway, it’s strange, that’s all I’m saying.” He finished slicing the fresh figs.
Mac had already made the dark chocolate cups that would cradle the sweet fruit, and they’d pair it with a small square of fresh honeycomb and a drop of freshly made vanilla whipped cream. Everything they made was small, easy to handle—and a delight for the senses—whether being enjoyed by lovers looking to enhance an experience, or just for the pure sake of enjoyment.
“Okay, smarty pants.” She turned the card in her hand and waved it at him. “Why is this card not torn in half? I’m being invited to go stag? What kind of crap is that? I’m already here, so why all the theatrics? It doesn’t make sense. You wanna start the cream while I put the fig treats together?”
Rick waggled his eyebrows. “You just want to get your fingers into all that honey.”
She barked out a laugh. “Get to whisking. It’ll be good for your muscles.”
“Which card is it?”
“The tarot card, Mac. Which card did you get?”
“The Two of Cups. You know what it means?”
Rick picked up a whisk and started whipping the cream. “Not in the slightest.”
“Me neither.” Mac set the invitation on the counter and unzipped the garment bag. “There isn’t enough what the hell to cover what I’m feeling right now.” She looked over the slinky red dress, matching shoes, and various accessories.
“Someone obviously wants you at the party.” He held his hand up to stall her. “As a guest, not as the hired help. Come on, Mac. Where’s your sense of adventure? Don’t you think it’s time you stopped pining for a man who’s been gone ten years?”
Eight years, four months, and twelve days, but who’s counting?
“I’m not pining.”
Rick waggled the whisk at her, the newly thickened cream clinging precariously to its silver threads. “That sounds like denial. He’s gone, Mac. You’ve got to stop hanging on.”
It was true she hadn’t had a real relationship since Mason. And she hadn’t planned to have a relationship with anyone but Mason. She had her work, and occasionally—when the need arose—she’d had sex. She did what she’d had to do to get by. Mason would expect nothing less from her, just as she knew—wherever he was—he was doing the same.
Mason would come for her, she knew it. She felt it.
But Rick was right. She’d been working constantly and was due a little fun. Maybe the Dacre House Halloween party was just what she needed.
Mac smiled and kissed Rick on the cheek. “Stop worrying about me. I’ll go, if for no other reason than to prove that I know how to have fun. Besides,” she waved the tarot card, “there’s magic in the air.”
* * * *
She glanced around the room and couldn’t stop the smile from curling her lips. She’d actually done it―made it through the evening as both a guest and an unofficial hostess.
Her stomach had been in knots when she’d first poured herself into the dress. It was expensive and beautifully made, one of the finest dresses she’d ever had the pleasure of wearing.
The cut-out sleeves tied just above her elbows, leaving the length of her arm exposed, and made her feel like a butterfly when she’d extended her arms. The bodice hugged her curves, the low neckline accentuating her breasts, while the short length made her legs look as if they went on forever. The outfit left nothing to the imagination and paired with matching blood-red, three-inch spiked heels—Mac felt sexy and daring.
She’d managed to untangle the mass of chestnut curls that had been forced into submission while she was in the kitchen. She’d pinned the sides up, but left the rest to cascade down her back. It was a treat to be able to let her hair hang loose—as if she were sharing a tantalizing secret, one that normally stayed shoved into a bun.
But that was the point of Halloween, wasn’t it? To explore the world from someone else’s eyes?
Tonight, she’d seen the world from the eyes of a siren. A wicked enchantress. A woman who’d attracted the attention of every man around her. She’d let them touch her gently—on the hand or the arm—as she passed them by. She’d smiled and greeted―played the perfect hostess.
That’s why she’d accepted the invitation, of course. To work. It was her job to make sure the partygoers were happy with the treats she’d provided. If a couple had needed her to instruct them on the proper way to eat honeycomb and figs, then she’d dipped her fingers through the sticky indulgence, spread it tenderly on the woman’s lips, and guided the woman’s escort to his lady’s mouth.
Mac was nothing if not thorough.
Something told her the host would appreciate her hands-on approach, and hopefully, he’d hire her again.
The party had quieted down over the last few hours, some of the attendees making use of the private rooms scattered throughout the house, no doubt. The host hadn’t spared any expense for his carnal playground—from the handsome sultan selling sex toys to the theme-driven rooms—he’d made sure there was something here for everyone to enjoy.
Several couples still danced to a slow and sensual tune. Low murmurs could be heard, giving the room a heartbeat, a steady thud that reverberated up and down Mac’s spine. The atmosphere was charged with sexual energy, so much so she found herself squeezing her thighs together to alleviate the pressure that had mounted with alarming speed.
She’d enjoyed herself immensely—no question—but it was time for her to go. Maybe there was still time to catch the sex toy dude in order to pick up a new trinket or two to use when she got back to her hotel. Anything to relieve the ache that pulsed between her thighs.
Mac turned. “Good evening, Mr. Benoit. It was a lovely party, don’t you think?”
His cadaverous complexion wrinkled into what Mac hoped was a smile. “Yes, dear. Lovely, indeed. Now, if you’ll be so kind as to follow me, I’ll escort you to your room.”
“M-my room?” Mac stuttered. “Mr. Benoit, thank you, but that won’t be necessary. I have a room across town.”
“Nonsense. The owner of Dacre House has made arrangements for you. Come along, dear.”
When she didn’t move, Mr. Benoit clapped his bony hands with impatient glee. “Chop, chop. I’ve left my wife in a … shall we say … precarious position, and I’m sure she’d like me to do something about that as quickly as possible. So please, do hurry. I’ve purchased some delightful items this evening, and I’d like to use them before the sun comes up, if you don’t mind.”
She couldn’t stop herself. Of their own accord, her eyes fell to his crotch. Shit. There was no way to undo the fact that she’d now seen the shape of Mr. Benoit’s erection, such as it was, tenting against his slacks.
“By all means…” she mentally rubbed the image from her eyes as she gestured her arm in an “after you” gesture. She sensed arguing would do no good. And what the hell?―she could crash here for a night, “…lead the way.”
They wound through the corridors until Mac was completely turned around.
Mr. Benoit finally stopped. “I believe you’ll find this room to be adequately … stocked. If you should need anything, well, don’t call me. I shall be busy the rest of the night. I expect you shall be as well.” His grin made her uneasy. “Good evening, Miss.”
“Wait, Mr. Benoit. The card.”
His impatience was evident. “The card, Miss?”
“The tarot card that came with my invitation, the Two of Cups? It wasn’t torn in half like the others. Why would the host go through the trouble of a formal invitation if he wasn’t going to give me a partner?”
“Ah, but who says he hasn’t? The Two of Cups signifies a balanced partnership, Miss Blackwell. An equal union, two become one. Perhaps your soul has already been joined with your life mate. It is not for me to say why the host does what he does. Really, dear. You should go on now.” He made a shooing motion with his hands. “The night waits for no one.”
Mac shook her head in wonder as she let herself into the room and locked the door. She rested her forehead and palms against the cool wood, trying to catch her breath. Her creepy, late-night escort, notwithstanding, her body was still ramped up from all the sexual energy in the mansion. Top that off with thoughts of her life mate and her skin was alive with sensation, so much so she tugged and pulled—unable to stand the binding garment a moment more—until her dress pooled at her feet.
The smooth fabric had been replaced by the chill in the air and her nipples tightened. The dress hadn’t left room for anything underneath―no bra, no panties. God, what a miserable waste. She’d gotten all dressed up, her body primed for action, and all she had were her own fingers to satisfy her.
Her fingers and the fantasy of her dark-haired warrior. The only man who’d ever made her come screaming. And that had been when they were young and inexperienced. What would he be like today, a man full grown?
She groaned and reached between her legs, brushing her fingers over her smooth, wet folds. Her stomach coiled, need coursed through her veins. God, the pressure. She felt like a live wire about to explode.
She turned from the door, her intent to stretch out on the bed and release the inferno raging under her skin. Instead, she froze … and stared into the dark eyes that haunted her dreams.
His smile was brilliant, blinding, and his chest rumbled with an animalistic sound of appreciation. “Hello, my beautiful Kenna.”
* * * *
His name sounded like a litany as it came from her lips with whispered reverence. She was even more beautiful than he’d remembered. She moved with a graceful sensuality she’d not had when he’d first met her. As if in her maturity, she’d discovered the pleasure of being in her own skin.
And damn, the years had been good to his Kenna.
“Mason?” Her soft, melodic voice was music to his weary ears. “Is it really you?”
The hopeful look in her eyes made his gut clench. He had so much to tell her, so much to explain. It would be damn hard to do while she was naked, but he’d work through it. They’d work through it together.
He’d been relieved to learn Kenna was still single. Unattached, as Mr. Benoit had informed him. Yeah, well, if Mason had his way, her status was about to become attached. Very attached. Carved-in-stone attached.
He approached her slowly, drinking in the beauty of her body. Her full lips and slender neck. Breasts, full and round, and tipped with the prettiest rose-colored nipples he’d ever seen. Her hips flared delicately from a trim waist, leading to the bare, glistening juncture between her legs.
Oh yeah, the years had been very kind. She was fucking gorgeous.
Mason brought her palm to his cheek and closed his eyes as he absorbed the warmth of her skin. “It’s really me, Kenna.”
“Where’ve you been?” Her words were breathy as if under a spell that wouldn’t allow her to engage her vocal chords.
He opened his eyes and looked around, searching for something to cover her. Her body tempted him beyond reason. If he didn’t get a robe on her in the next thirty seconds, he’d do what he’d damn well dreamed of doing every night for the last eight years. And once he was inside her, he wouldn’t stop until they were either exhausted or dead.
“Where?” she asked again.
She cupped her breasts.
God, he’d always loved her breasts, a perfect fit for his hand.
She massaged the tawny globes before rolling the darkened tips between her fingers.
“Deep cover. Special Ops. Couldn’t tell.” He was reduced to three-syllable sentences. Her playful fingers made him crazy. He was as hard as a fucking rock, and if she didn’t stop pulling on her nipples he was going to—
“Take off your clothes,” she demanded.
Mason barked out a surprised laugh. “Kenna, maybe we should talk first.” He could feel his manhood being ripped from his body even as he said the words. The woman he loved demanded he get naked and he wanted to talk. What a pussy.
“No one calls me Kenna anymore. And it’s not your words I need right now. Take your clothes off.”
He narrowed his eyes, trying to reconcile the woman before him with the girl he’d known. She was almost twenty-seven now, sexier, definitely mouthier than when she was younger, and he loved her. Deep in his soul, he knew that hadn’t changed.
Her smile was pure sultry vixen. “Still stubborn, I see. Well, there’s something you should know about me, Mason.”
He grinned, enjoying her sass. “And what’s that, sweetheart?”
She gripped the front of his shirt and jerked it from his waistband. “I’m not as patient as I used to be. And I’ve waited for you for a long time.”
The growl that rumbled from his throat was the only warning he gave her. He pulled her into his arms and took the kiss he’d been dying for. She didn’t want to talk? Fine. He could work with that, but they’d talk. Later.
Much, much later.
Her fists gripped his shirt as he deepened the kiss. He shoved his fingers into her hair, the silky strands warm and inviting to his senses. Before he knew it, his shirt was off and her hands were on him. Skin-to-skin. Rubbing, caressing, teasing. She flicked a fingernail across the flat disc of his nipple. His breath caught as she grabbed it and lightly twisted.
Mason felt the tug clear to his balls. He pulled back and raised an eyebrow.
Her cheeks were flushed with arousal. “I like it. Figured you would too.”
“Yeah,” he groaned as she did it again, “I do.”
She took his hand and pulled him toward the king-sized bed. She slid onto the wide surface and sprawled on her back, her smile inviting him to have his way with her. “You’re still wearing pants.”
Mason went to work on his boots and jeans, stripping both off in record time. “I’ve been waiting to touch you for so long, Kenna. I’m not sure where to start.” His hands shook as he climbed onto the bed and stretched out next to her. “God, you’re more beautiful than ever.”
He brushed his fingers down her neck and across her collarbone. She was so soft. Her skin was tanned to a rich hue, accentuating her emerald eyes and long, dark lashes. He covered her mouth with his, swallowing her moan as he feathered his fingertips across her breasts. Need strangled him as he pressed harder, forced her mouth open, and took possession.
When he was done, there wouldn’t be any question about who she belonged to.
She was his, and he’d never leave her again.
She broke from the kiss and reached for the tray on the side table. She picked up some sort of confection, a piece of honeycomb with some kind of fruit thing. “This is what I do now, Mason. Did you know that?”
He watched, mesmerized as she dipped her fingers into the honey and traced the sticky liquid around the swirl of her nipple. “You made that?”
“Well, the bees made this particular treasure. I’ve just found excellent uses for it.” She cradled her breast, lifted it in offering. “Would you like to try it?”
Hell yes. He dragged the flat of his tongue over her tightened bud, lapping up the rich honey before closing his lips around her. “Fuck, Kenna. You taste so good,” he growled. “I’ve missed this, sweetheart.” He nipped and sucked her nipples; first one, then the other. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“I knew you’d come back. I’ve always known, Mason.”
Her words set him free. Made him feel alive. Made him whole.
“You’re mine, Kenna. Always, mine. I need you, baby. I need you now.”
* * * *
Kenna was overwhelmed by sensation. Mason was here. In her arms.
He was here. Kissing the shit out of her.
He’d obviously taken excellent care of himself. His broad shoulders and hard chest were all she could see as he came over her. His biceps pulled tight as he held himself above her, and she didn’t even attempt to resist the urge to trace all the hard lines and ridges. Oh no, her hands worked double-time to make sure she didn’t miss an inch.
She caressed his narrow waist, moved farther down his torso until she could wrap her hand around his thick length. She remembered the velvety steel heat, and how good it felt when he stretched her. And he would stretch her—to her very limits—just as he’d always done.
She traced the bead of moisture that spilled from his crown, slicking it over him with the pads of her fingers, and delighted in the tortured groan that came from his chest. She pulled away from his kiss—her lungs desperate for air, her tongue eager for the taste of him. She brought her fingers up, brushed them over her kiss-swollen lips.
Mason’s eyes flared wide as she sucked his taste off her fingers. His warm, rich scent filled her head, made her dizzy. Her pussy clenched hard, her body more than ready for him.
“Are you going to fuck me, or just play around?”
He grabbed a condom from the bedside table and sheathed himself. “Oh, I’m going to do more than fuck you, Kenna. I’m going to marry you. Someday, I’ll give you babies. I plan to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“Doesn’t sound like you’re asking.”
He shifted until his cock nudged her entrance and then stopped. “I’m not.”
“Do you really want to talk about this now?” She arched her hips, trying to get him to finish what he’d started. “My life is in New York.” She figured she should warn him.
“Then that’s where my life will be.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that,” he confirmed, his tone dead serious. “I don’t give a shit where we live, Kenna. My life is where you are. My life has always been where you are. I can’t change what I had to do, baby. I hope you can forgive me for that. I’ve secured our future. A tiny little device I’ll tell you about later. I promise, I won’t leave you again.”
“You’ll explain it to me? You’ll tell me what you’ve been doing for the last eight years?”
His expression softened. “What I can, yes. I never wanted to leave you.”
“Are you back to stay? For good?”
“Then marry me, give me babies, whatever. But, I’m not the same young girl you once knew. I know what I like. I know what I want.”
“And what do you want, sweetheart?”
“You. Now. And don’t even think about slow and easy, Mason. I’m not—” Kenna cried out as he thrust inside her. A surge of pleasure raced through her body, tiny sparks of electricity shooting off in different directions.
God, she’d missed this. The hot, thick penetration that bordered on pain—just enough to keep her on edge, keep her wild for him. She lifted her legs, sharing a groan with him at the change in position.
“Kenna. Jesus.” He stared at her with a hunger and need that matched her own.
She pulled him down and welcomed his weight on top of her as she nuzzled his neck. She loved the way he smelled, tasted. She loved everything about this man. And he was all hers.
She wrapped her legs around him and held tight as he worked his hips, driving his cock deep. Her body was on fire, sweat covering them both by the time her muscles tightened and prepared for release.
Mason’s breath was hot against her as he nibbled the sensitive skin behind her ear. The shadow that always seemed to adorn his face gently scraped her skin. Still she needed more.
“Mason,” she begged.
“I’m with you, sweetheart. Right here with you.”
He shifted to his knees. He hooked her legs with his arms and spread her wide.
Kenna watched as he stared intently at where they were joined, as if he were mesmerized by the sight. “I know what you need, but I don’t want to let go of your legs. You’re so wet, Kenna. So beautiful and delicate. God, you’re burning me alive. I want to feel you explode around me, sweetheart. Touch yourself, Kenna. Give us what we need.”
Kenna didn’t waste any time reaching between them. Her fingers, slick with her own juices, teased over his cock before finding the tight bud of her clit. Tortured nerve endings sizzled with excitement as she stroked.
Their gazes locked and then Kenna flew, her body exploding into a million fragments as wave after wave of pleasure rushed over her.
“I love you, Kenna. Love you so fucking much.” Mason’s voice was dark and rough.
She felt him pulse, felt the rumble in his chest as he came. She tightened around him, her body shuddering hard as the last tremors rolled through her.
This was what she’d dreamed about. Mason, her life mate, keeper of her soul … here … with her.
“I love you, too, Mason.” She pulled his face down to hers. “Welcome home.”