From 'Bound to Lie' by Nichelle Gregory. It has been reprinted with permission from Cleis Press. 'Melt' was included in Best Bondage Erotica 2015. This excerpt is sponsored by LELO.

“Mr. Leland and Mr. Falconi will be with you shortly, Ms. Tesser.”

Lexie glanced up from her leather portfolio and smiled at Gloria. “Thank you.”

The receptionist peered at her over her glasses. “Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee, water?”

Lexie lifted her hand. “Oh, no. Thank you.”

Gloria nodded before directing her attention to her computer. Lexie looked at her watch as her stomach growled. She never ate before completing a mission. An empty belly kept her focused and she looked forward to enjoying a meal afterward. Lexie was glad all she needed was information this time. Later, she would celebrate her impeccable record with the company and indulge with lobster bisque and a large slice of double-chocolate cake. She planned to savor that dessert in less than an hour.

The phone on Gloria’s desk rang and Lexie listened to her quick replies. She knew the other woman had been given herfinal directives before she could head home and that she’d been made aware of Mr. Leland’s late arrival. In less than twenty minutes Gloria would leave and she would be alone with Mr. Dane Falconi. Lexie drew a pen from her bag.

Dane Falconi thought he was about to review possible concepts for a nightclub that would no doubt rival New York’s finest. He had no idea the havoc she was about to wreak once the two of them were left to take care of business. Lexie toyed with the slim gold ballpoint while pretending to study the intri- cate designs before her as Gloria hung up the phone.

“Ms. Tesser?” Lexie lifted her head. “Yes?” “Mr. Leland has been delayed in his commute from theairport, but Mr. Falconi can see you now.” Gloria got up and rounded her desk. “Please come with me.”

“Of course.” Lexie closed her portfolio, slipped it into her bag and stood, pleased to be right on schedule.

She followed Gloria around the corner, noting the exit at the end of the hallway as they passed panels of glass giving views into empty office spaces. Lexie didn’t bother eyeing her reflec- tion, confident her appearance was every bit as flawless as the work she was about to present. She’d chosen a black high-waist pencil skirt and a heather-gray blouse with every intention of using her muted feminine wiles to distract Dane. She’d read his file several times. Dane enjoyed women like his coffee, rich and full-bodied.

“Here we are.” Gloria knocked once on the door, then twisted the silver knob and opened it.

“Thank you.” Lexie stepped past her into the midsized, well- designed conference room, eager to finish what she’d come to do.

“Ms. Tesser, welcome.” Dane Falconi picked up his coffeecup as he got up from the head of a beautiful dark wood table. He moved toward her, elegant and handsome as hell in a dark suit that matched his thick hair. “I apologize for my partner not being able to join us.”

Lexie shook his offered hand. He seemed even taller than she knew him to be as his warm fingers grasped hers. “I understand. It’s a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Falconi.”

“Likewise.” Dane turned his attention to his secretary. “Gloria, can you refresh my cup before you go?”

Dane had coffee at the end of each day. Lexie always appreciated the marks that were consistent. Made her work a hell of a lot easier. She loathed unexpected surprises, messy scenarios and any unaccounted variable that prolonged her from finishing a job.

“Of course.” Gloria took Dane’s cup and exited the room.

“Mr. Falconi, I’m excited to show you these concepts this evening.” Lexie gripped the pen tighter in her left hand as she followed him along the opposite side of the polished rectangle table, ensuring her seat would be to his right.

“Please, call me Dane.” He waited for her to sit down before doing the same. “Your firm comes so highly recommended. I know taking on a project already in progress isn’t something your company normally does.”

Lexie smiled, amused by Dane’s ironic choice of words. She took her portfolio out of her bag she’d placed on the chair beside her. “It’s our pleasure to help you and Mr. Leland build the kind of hot spot you’re both known for.”

Her company could pull off anything at the last minute; waking an architect in the middle of the night to whip up a few designs and forging her credentials was nothing.

“Let’s see what you’ve brought.” Dane scooted his chair closer to hers.Lexie directed his attention to the first design. “Here, you’ll see we’ve integrated—”

A soft knock on the door drew both their attention to Gloria coming in with two mugs on a tray and a file folder under her arm. “Pardon the interruption. This fax just came in for you.”

Lexie would have to buy Gerard another bottle of his favorite vodka for his uncanny ability to always know the precise moment to engage her target.

Gloria placed the tray within reach, handed Dane his coffee and the folder, then smiled at Lexie. “There’s hot water in the carafe along with a selection of teas and hot chocolate in case you change your mind about having something to drink.”

Lexie gave the secretary a genuine smile. “How thoughtful.”

A certain premium blend of cocoa was one of her guilty little pleasures.

“Thank you, Gloria.” Dane opened the folder as Lexie glanced at the empty mug in front of her, half tempted to make the warm drink. She needed no distractions with her window of opportunity coming up in less than seven seconds.

Lexie watched Dane read the fax as the silver-haired clerk gave a faint nod of her head. “Do you need anything else before I go, Mr. Falconi?”

Dane shifted his attention from the paper in his hand to look at his executive assistant as Lexie prepared to make her move.

“That’s all. Good night, Gloria.” Lexie kept her eyes on them both while she edged her handimperceptibly closer to Dane’s cup. She poised her pen above the rim and successfully depressed the whisper-quiet button on top that released the hidden liquid inside.

Success!

Lexie said good night to Gloria as she left. She heard the door click shut as Dane drank his coffee. One sip was all it usuallytook. She’d have him spilling his guts in no time. Lexie’s gaze slid over Dane’s face. He was an attractive man, clearly used to the world bending to his will. She would take pleasure in making him yield to hers in just a few minutes.

“Now, where were we?” Dane tapped his finger on her schematic. “I think you were just about to tell me how you integrated both metal and wood on the entrance of the building?”

“Yes. Mr. Leland expressed an interest in using eco-friendly materials over the phone. I also propose installing solar-powered skylights.”

Dane put his cup down and nodded. “I love that idea.”

“I thought you would.” Lexie observed him squeeze the bridge of his nose, knowing he’d never hear the rest. “I’ve got several more concepts I think you’ll like too.”

“Are you sure you won’t have a cup of cocoa?” He lifted the silver tin from under a napkin on the tray and Lexie recognized it as her favorite. “This is a really good brand. Very smooth.”

Lexie smiled. “I think I just might.”

Why not? Dane was already feeling the effects of the drug. Her long day was almost over. She deserved a few sips of plea- sure. Lexie took the tin and the spoon Dane offered. She carefully added the powder and stirred as he poured water into her mug. The sweet fragrance wafted upward and Lexie couldn’t resist tasting the cocoa.

“Delicious, isn’t it?” Lexie nodded. “Heavenly. Just what I needed.” “I thought another cup of coffee was just...” Dane frowned.

“Just what I...” He blinked and looked at her. “What were we talking about?”

Lexie sat her drink down with a barely repressed grin. He was ready and so was she. “Do you remember my name, Mr. Falconi?”

Dane slowly blinked as he loosened his tie. “D-Dane. Please call me, Dane.”

Lexie got up out of her seat. “Very well.” She walked over to the door, locked it, then proceeded to close all the blinds. She turned to face Dane again, delighted to see he hadn’t moved an inch. He continued to stare off into space as she moved back to her bag. She took out a mini-tape recorder and two plastic ties. “Dane, I need to ask you a few questions.”

“What’s going on?” He asked the question slowly, as if it were a struggle to say three words.

Lexie was impressed he’d spoken without slightly slurred speech. Sometimes that made understanding the intel she extracted difficult...but never impossible.

“What’s going on right now is an exchange of information from you to me.”

Dane leaned back in his chair. “Information? I don’t...under- stand.”

The initial effect of the drug she’d administered was disorientation, which was helpful for restraining her marks—for their safety and hers. Lexie preferred clean jobs with no blood, little sweat and no tears.

The latter usually occurred whenever she questioned a female, which was why Lexie favored interrogating members of the opposite sex. She never got tired of watching the medically induced cobwebs cleared away after she’d secured a man. Astonishment shifted to indignation, then outrage and finally, usually, they made the decision to give her what she wanted. Those were the easy guys. The harder ones, the ones that refused to cooperate...well, they got a visit from an operative within another branch of her company. They didn’t mind getting dirty.

Lexie moved behind Dane. She rested her hands on the back of his chair, then leaned forward to whisper in his ear. “Youdon’t need to understand. Now, tell me everything you know about Mr. Swan.”

“Swan? He runs one of our nightclubs.”

“I’m aware of that.” Lexie ran a finger across the fabric of Dane’s tailored suit. She turned him in the chair to face her. “Did you know he installed a state-of-the-art safe in his office?”

“Yes.” Dane glowered. “What the hell is going on here? W- what did you give me?”

Lexie placed a hand on his shoulder when he attempted to get up. “Dane, I need you to focus.” She caressed the top of his hand, which was resting on the metal arm of his seat. “Tell me what I need to know. There are files kept in that safe that are crucial to national security.”

Hazel eyes locked with hers, captivating and arresting. Damn.

He had to be one of the sexiest marks she’d ever had the pleasure of tying down.

Pushing the errant thought from her mind, Lexie blinked, moved and within the breadth of a second secured Dane’s wrist to the chair with her plastic tie.

“What do you think you are doing?” His voice had deepened with anger.

Lexie sighed. Sexy or not, she wanted this job done twenty minutes ago. She placed her palm on top of his other wrist. “Dane, I’ll ask the questions. Okay, sweetie?”

“I don’t think so.” He grabbed her arm with his free hand and Lexie gasped.

Instinctually, she lifted her hand with every intention of striking his windpipe but Dane moved faster, placing his long fingers around her neck. Lexie’s eyes widened as he squeezed, cutting off her air supply with cold-blooded efficiency. She only had a few precious seconds to react before she wouldn’t be able to move at all. Dane smiled at her, his gaze steady, deadly as he tightened his grip around her esophagus.

Lexie grabbed at his hand with both of hers, desperation setting in as the need for oxygen switched her into survival mode. She clawed at him, but she knew just like Dane did that her efforts were futile as her vision began to blur. Shocked, Lexie stared up into the sepia depths of Dane’s eyes as her fingers fell from his hand at her neck and she gave in to the blackness consuming her.

Dane checked the blood flow to Lexie’s hands and ankles a final time before standing to admire his handiwork. She was secure on top of the conference table, her beauty on display. He didn’t want to take his eyes off of her. Her outfit was perfect, professional and modest and fucking distracting.

The picture in Lexie’s file didn’t do her or her curves any damn justice. He’d released her hair from the clip holding the tresses back and now the curly ebony strands framed her face, in lush contrast to her caramel skin.

Dane moved from between her legs to her side. “Lexie, wake up.”

Lexie remained still, except for the even rise and fall of her chest. Dane assessed the reddened marks around her throat as he took her pulse. It truly was a shame to mar such lovely skin, but she’d left him no choice. He trailed a finger down her cheek while studying the increase of eye moment beneath Lexie’s eyelids. She was coming around.

“Lexie...”

One would never think she was capable of doing what Dane knew she could do. He smiled as Lexie slowly opened her eyes and looked at him. “Welcome back.”

A flicker of emotion glimmered in the dark brown eyesholding his and it only took Dane a nanosecond to recognize it wasn’t fear, but anger that he found sexy as hell.

Dane watched Lexie lift her head and take stock of her current situation. She attempted to wrench her bound hands above her head, then more gingerly tested the nylon rope binding her ankles to the legs of the fine wood table.

“What do you want?” Her voice was steadier than the last male subject he’d unpleasantly surprised.

“Information.”

Lexie laughed, and the husky sound made Dane’s cock twitch. He admired her ability to remain calm after realizing there was no escape from whatever was about to happen next. She’d been trained for any scenario, but Dane had seen many with similar backgrounds fold minutes after accepting they were no longer in control.

Lexie glanced at his mug. “You faked me out.”

“No, I drank the drug. I’ve just built up a tolerance for the amount you gave me.”

“Who are you?”

Dane pressed his finger against Lexie’s lips. “I’ll ask the questions. Okay, sweetie?” He smirked when she glared at him.

“You’ll get nothing out of me.” Lexie turned her head away from him. “I’ll never say a word.”

“You aren’t the first person to say that. Lexie, look at me.” Dane took hold of her chin when she didn’t respond and brought her face back to his. “We can do this the hard way or my way. I really would prefer not to hurt you, but you and I both know how this job has to be done. So tell me, what’s it going to be?”

Dane shook his head as Lexie held his gaze and remained silent without flinching. Impressive.

She was as brave as she was gorgeous. The only indication he’d gotten to her was the increased flutter of her carotid pulse.

“Okay, Lexie, I’m going to give you a chance to talk despite your resolution against it.” He moved his hands up to her blouse. Her eyes widened as he unfastened the little gray buttons and exposed her lacy black bra. Dane cupped her breasts and Lexie yanked once on the ropes restraining her hands. “What was your mission, Lexie?”

“Fuck you.”

The two words were as cold and sharp as shards of ice. Dane chuckled as he pushed down the cups of her bra and exposed her dark chocolate nipples. He circled Lexie’s areolas with his fingers, watched her suck in a breath as her flesh puckered beneath his touch. Dane flicked the hardening tips, then pinched them, making Lexie gasp. “What was your mission, Lexie?” He increased the pressure on her nipples as he pulled on them.

Dane could see Lexie’s jaw tighten. She was uncomfortable, but he wasn’t causing her any real pain, not the kind of pain he knew she anticipated, no matter how calm she managed to appear.

“Go to hell.”

Dane released his hold on her and Lexie groaned. He put one hand on the table and leaned in close. “You first.” Dane moved his head down, taking Lexie’s breast into his mouth. She shrieked when he toyed with her nipple between his teeth. He nipped it and she again pulled against the binds holding her in place. Dane teased her other breast with his fingers while suckling, licking and kissing the one beneath his lips. He lifted his head when Lexie’s frightened gasps turned into almost inaudible whimpers of pleasure. “What was your mission, Lexie?”

“I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.” Lexie shuddered as Dane chuckled.

She really was something else. He rubbed his palm over both of her swollen nipples, thenmoved toward the head of the table to stand between her legs. “I admire your fortitude.” Dane glanced at his watch. “I’m afraid we need to hurry things along here.” He reached into his suit jacket, pulled out his trusted Swiss Army knife and showed it to Lexie. “You know how this works. Make things easier on yourself. Tell me what I want to know.”

Lexie snorted. “I do know how this works. We both know the game. We’re both players. You can try to break me.” She smiled at him. “Maybe I’ll say something useful, maybe not, but we both know I’m bound to lie.”

“Possibly.” Dane pushed his knife between the fabric of her skirt and her thigh. He turned the blade outward and cut a deep slit, revealing more of her leg. “But you’re underestimating just how good I am at my job.”

“Likewise.” Lexie briefly closed her eyes as he cut the other side of her skirt. “Nothing I say or don’t say will change what you plan to do to me.”

“You know?” Dane pushed her hem up and bared her panties. “That’s where you’re wrong.” He traced an embroidered flower on the front panel of her lingerie and Lexie tensed. “These are pretty. Pretty and wet. Interesting.”

That got a reaction. Dane felt a tremor flow through Lexie’s body as she averted her face from him. He slipped his blade beneath the minuscule scrap of lace on each side of her hip, sliced and then tugged, revealing her shaved pussy as he pulled the damp panties free.

Dane squeezed her wet lips, dipped his finger between them and caressed her clit. Lexie’s sharp intake of breath made his cock hard. He removed his hand, came to her side again, brought her ruined panties up to her face and pressed them against her nose. “Do you like being taken roughly, Lexie?” Dane didn’t expect a response and he didn’t get one, except for the goose bumps rising beneath his questing fingers on her inner thigh. “Do you look forward to those rare moments when you take a lover, relinquish control and let him fuck you? Look at me.”

When she turned her head to meet his gaze, the brief glimpse of pain Dane saw in her eyes almost made him feel guilty. “You’re a bastard.” She trembled when he dropped the panties by her cheek and moved back between her bound legs.

That he was. A bastard with a job to finish.

Lexie gritted her teeth as Dane spread her thighs wider, opening her to his view. She fought to remain still as he went back to playing in her betraying wetness, lubricating his fingers in her juices. Trying to move was pointless. Lexie had never felt so helpless. She clearly was in the last moments of her life and she couldn’t accept it, couldn’t fathom this was truly happening to her.

Dane swirled his finger over her clit, stirring up a helpless hunger. The reality was this was happening and she was enjoying it.

Lexie shifted her face from Dane’s, tears burning her eyes. She wasn’t going to cry; no way would she let him see her come undone.

Lexie yelped when Dane swatted her inner thigh. “Keep your eyes on me.” Exhaling, she turned her head and met his gaze over her stillembarrassingly hard nipples as he pushed his two middle fingers into her. The shock of him filling her, and facing how wet she truly was, drew another gasp from Lexie. She watched him place his other hand on top of her pussy. Lexie parted her lips to speak, then closed them. What could she say to stall him?

All thoughts fled her mind when he began rigorously finger-fucking her. The angle of his fingers coupled with the pressure of his hand on top of her pelvic bone was so intense, it consumed her senses. Lexie involuntarily closed her eyes as she moaned, arching her back off the table. Her chest heaved as she struggled not to whimper in ecstasy. He overwhelmed her within seconds, flooding her body with undeniable pleasure that kept building, twisting, arcing into...into...

Dear god, she would not give this man her orgasm.

Lexie screamed as she came, every part of her vibrating on a frequency her body had never hummed to before. She quivered with each delightful aftershock and groaned when Dane removed his fingers. Lexie became aware of her ragged breathing. She kept her eyes closed and the tears she’d held back earlier threatened to defy her as Dane caressed her cheek.

“What was your mission, Lexie? Tell me now. Or do I have to make you come a few more times?”

Lexie’s heart twisted as she forced herself to look up into Dane’s handsome face. She could’ve taken pain, but more treacherous climaxes bestowed by her assassin? “Please, please just kill me.” Lexie trembled as a tear slid down her cheek.

Silence stretched between them before Dane cursed, his hard gaze softening. “I’m not going to kill you.” He smoothed her hair. “You’re one of the best operatives we have.”

“I’m not going to talk.” Lexie tuned out Dane’s voice as she made peace with her fate. She’d done the best job she could. “I won’t talk. Take that knife and—” Lexie froze as Dane took hold of her chin.

“Lexie, I’m going to need you to focus now.”

Lexie blinked as Dane reached over her. She frowned when he fixed her bra and buttoned up her blouse.

“I was planted here to test you. It happens to all of us at least once.” Dane pulled her split skirt down. “I could’ve usedother methods, but I didn’t think those would be as effective.” He moved out of her line of sight. Lexie felt him undoing the rope around her ankles. Moments later her legs were free. “I will confirm in my report what the company already knows. You’re an exemplary, loyal asset.”

“I don’t believe this,” Lexie said as he untied her hands. She sat up and rubbed her wrists.

“It’s the truth.” Dane put all the rope he’d gathered back into her bag.

Stunned, Lexie watched him pocket her panties as he approached her. Her pulse quickened when she saw evidence of his impressive hard-on.

“Are you all right?” Lexie stood, glaring up at Dane as he grinned. “I’m fine.” “Good.” Dane buttoned his suit jacket. “Because our markwill be here any second.” “Right, Mr. Leland.” Lexie grabbed her hair clip from thetable. “Wait. Our mark?” She pulled her mussed hair back as she looked over Dane’s shoulder through the glass facing the hallway.

“I thought if we worked together, got done faster...we could—”

Lexie pressed her finger to Dane’s lips. “Our mark is here.”

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