When Amery Hardwick first met martial arts master Ronin Black, she wasn’t ready for the primal urges his sensual rope artistry released in her. As it turned out Amery and Ronin were made for each other. But when they head to Japan for a delayed honeymoon and Ronin’s annual training with his sensei, Amery struggles to adapt to the foreign customs as well as running her burgeoning business from afar. But culture shock is the least of her worries when faced with the changes in Ronin—it feels as if she’s married a stranger. Caught between his sensei’s demands and pleasing his wife, Ronin is at war with himself over choosing advancement in his jujitsu training, or staying at home with the woman who owns his heart and soul. As the limits of their relationship are tested once again, Ronin and Amery discover that they both have a lot to learn about each other….and what it takes to build a love that’ll pass all life’s little tests.
Includes a preview of the new Mastered series novel, Unraveled.
Praise for Lorelei James
“A must read for anyone craving more kink in their romance.”—*Tara Sue Me, New York Times bestselling author
“No one writes contemporary erotic romance better than Lorelei James.”—# 1 New York Times Bestselling Author Maya Banks
“Sweet, seductive, and romantic.”—New York Times bestselling author Jaci Burton
Lorelei James is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Mastered Series novels, Unraveled, Unwound, and Bound, as well as the Blacktop Cowboys novels which include Wrangled and Tangled, Hillbilly Rockstar, and Corralled. Her books have won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, as well as the CAPA Award. Lorelei lives in western South Dakota with her family…and a whole closetful of cowgirl boots.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“What did you have to promise Shiori to convince her to let us borrow her private jet?”
Amery felt Ronin staring at her beneath his sunglasses.
“Nothing. You realize she does not own this plane? It belongs to the company.”
“Same difference. It’s been here, in Denver, at her disposal, since her arrival. And it’s not like Okada is missing it, right? How many personal aircraft does your grandfather own anyway?”
Now Amery suspected Ronin had narrowed his eyes beneath the dark lenses. “Five. Three airplanes and two helicopters. Do you have a problem with that?”
She wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question. Although she and Ronin had been married for six months, she hadn’t gotten used to the perks of having the heir to a corporation worth billions as her husband. Ronin didn’t live ostentatiously—if she didn’t count his penthouse suite atop the building he owned, or his SUV, or his sports car, or his custom motorcycle. But every once in a while the magnitude of his fortune hit her.
Ronin stopped in front of her and pushed his sunglasses on top of his head. Then he curled his hand around her face. “Baby. Having access to a private jet just means we don’t have to worry about airport security confiscating the bags of ropes I packed for us.”
“Bags? Is that why you insisted I could pack as many suitcases as I wanted?”
“No.” He feathered his thumb across her bottom lip. “We’ll be gone for two and a half months. I want you to have anything you need from our home to help you to settle in.”
She kissed the inside of his wrist. “All I need to feel at home is you, Master Black.”
“You humble me, Mrs. Black.”
“Mmm. You still love saying that.”
“And I always will.”
“Mr. Black?” a male voice spoke behind them.
Ronin’s stern mask dropped into place before he turned around. “Yes?”
The blond pilot, a male somewhere in his fifties, offered his hand. “Mark Beauchamp. This is my copilot, Bernie Samuelson.”
“Pleased to meet you both. This is my wife, Amery.”
Another round of handshakes.
“We’ve done the preflight checks. We’re scheduled to refuel in Hawaii. Then we’re flying to Osaka. Do you have any questions?”
“Can I see your aviation orders from Okada?”
Amery’s gaze moved between the two men. What were aviation orders?
Pilot Mark pulled out a manila envelope and handed it to Ronin.
Ronin removed three papers and read the first one, then he lifted the paper up to the light. After he read the second document, he scanned the third and handed the paperwork back to Pilot Mark. “Glad to see it’s all in order.”
“We’re familiar with protocol with Ms. Hirano.” He pointed to a burly man standing about twenty feet behind them. “Carver will handle your luggage. As soon as we’ve finished final checks, Nick, your flight steward, will bring you onboard.”
“Appreciated. Thank you.”
“Our pleasure, Mr. Black.” Pilot Mark smiled at Amery. “Mrs. Black.”
Before she could ask Ronin a question, he strode toward Carver and handed him the luggage claim ticket. Then he returned to her. “You okay?”
“This is all really weird. What paperwork did he give you?”
“Authorization papers. In Japan, Okada has an aviation crew on standby. While this plane is here, it doesn’t have a regular crew so we hire a local aviation company. Due to kidnapping threats, my grandfather has a set of protocols in place for any crew who flies an Okada heir. Even on an Okada jet. It’s up to me to verify this crew is the crew that Okada hired.”
“So they passed?”
“Ever had a crew not pass?”
“Once. No nefarious plans, just a clerical error that resulted in them losing Okada’s business.” Ronin took her hand and led her to the big window overlooking the tarmac. “There it is. A Gulfstream Five.”
She studied the airplane. It didn’t have the Okada Foods corporate logo on it anywhere. “It’s a lot bigger than I expected.”
He chuckled in her ear. “A phrase a man loves to hear.”
When she didn’t tease him or call him a pervert, he turned her around to face him. “Are you nervous?”
“About flying? No. It’s just surreal to think that we’ll be living in Japan for ten weeks.”
“For me too.”
Amery gave him a skeptical look. “Why? You go to Japan at least twice a year for weeks at a time.” She left the rest of it unsaid. You were raised in Japan; you know the language and the customs—you’re not a foreigner like I am.
“But I always go by myself. While I’m there, I train. I sleep. I do that for two or three weeks, then I spend a few days with my family in the craziness that is Tokyo and I return to Denver more worn down than when I left.”
She brushed his hair off his face. “That makes me sad.”
“But this time will be different. I’ll get to spend three weeks with you. Just us, seeing the sights.” Ronin squeezed her hand. “And after my daily training sessions, I get to return to you every night.”
“But what if—”
Ronin slanted his mouth over hers and kissed her very softly. “You and me, Amery. Nothing else matters.”
As much as she wanted to believe him, his claim wasn’t entirely true. Master Black would spend six weeks training with his sensei, Daichi. He’d already warned her that the regimen was grueling. Fourteen-hour days, every day, for three weeks. Then they’d take a week and sightsee between session one and session two, but then they’d return to the remote village where Ronin would train for three more weeks—the last week of which he’d spend sequestered. That’s when Ronin’s mother would squire Amery off to visit the Okada Foods factories that were mass producing her packaging designs.
“Mr. Black?” a voice inquired behind them.
They turned to face a good-looking Hispanic man, who she guessed was around her age. “Yes?”
“I’m Nick. Your steward. The cabin is ready if you are?”
“Of course. Thank you.”
Ronin kept his hand on the small of her back as they crossed the tarmac. The wind blew like crazy, whipping her hair around her face.
Nick scaled the stairs and waited at the top. “It feels strange welcoming you aboard the plane you own, but welcome.”
Amery waited for Ronin to correct Nick—that Okada owned the plane, not him, but Ronin didn’t respond.
“May I take your coats?”
Ronin helped Amery with her long wool coat before shrugging out of his leather jacket. “I’ll give my wife a tour. We can take off as soon as they’re ready. I’ll let you know if we need anything.”
“Of course.” Nick stepped back into a small galley kitchen.
Amery turned and felt her mouth hanging open as she stared at their surroundings. This was the inside of an airplane? The interior ceiling was white tufted leather. Silver and black zigzag-patterned wallpaper covered the walls. The plush chairs—four of them—were upholstered in a dark charcoal with red leather armrests. The carpeting was gray with flecks of red. Behind the chairs was a mini conference table. Directly behind that area were two more oversized recliners that could swivel toward each other or face the red leather couch along the opposite side.
“Holy shit, Ronin. I don’t know what I was expecting—okay, I had zero expectations because I’ve never been on a private plane before, but it certainly wasn’t this.”
“It gets better.” He led her past the conference and lounging areas. He slid open a door, revealing a bathroom with a walk-in tiled shower.
“That is nothing like the tiny, cramped bathrooms on commercial airliners,” she said with awe.
“This is Okada’s transcontinental aircraft so it was retrofitted for comfort on long flights.” Ronin opened another door and brought her inside a bedroom.
A bedroom. On a plane.
Of course the decor screamed rich and classy. Plush black-and-cream-striped bedding with half a dozen fluffy pillows covered in solid black set against cream-colored sheets. The king-sized bed took up most of the space, but on each side of the headboard were built-in dressers in white and black lacquer. Heavy black curtains covered the walls. “The only thing missing is a big-screen TV.”
“Got that too.” Ronin punched a button on the wall and a TV screen that she guessed to be about forty-eight inches lowered from the ceiling. She hadn’t noticed it because the black panel had blended in with the black ceiling.
Amery gawked at the luxurious space and wondered if there’d ever come a time when she took things like this for granted.
Ronin kicked the door shut and pulled her into him so they tumbled onto the bed. Then he pinned her arms above her head and got right in her face. “Don’t.”
“Don’t look at me like you don’t know me.”
Her eyes searched his. “But I don’t know you in this context, Ronin. I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.”
“Do you want to get off this plane and fly commercial? Because I will.”
“Are you kidding me? No. Way.” She nuzzled his jaw. “I just don’t want you to get short with me when I’m overwhelmed by who you are outside of our life in Denver.”
He rested his forehead to hers. “You are my life regardless of where we are. I know I’m selfish for demanding you come with me. I can’t stand the thought of being away from you for two and a half months. But if that means you resent me—”
Amery lifted her head to gaze at him and then pressed her lips to his. The feel of his weight on her, the taste of him, his scent, those were familiar. Those things grounded her as much as they grounded him. That’s why she was going. He needed her there with him. “No resentment. But you’ll have to figure out a way to deal with my freak-out moments, because this is the first of many.”
Ronin’s lips curved into a wicked smile. “I’ve come up with a few ideas on how best to distract you, baby.”
“Do those ideas involve rope?”
He rubbed his nose to hers. “Always.”
The plane started to move. “Whoa.”
“It appears they were as ready to take off as they claimed.” Ronin kissed her quickly and pushed onto his knees.
“Do we have to go back to the main part of the cabin and buckle up?”
“Nope.” He stretched out beside her, placing his feet on the pillows. “Do this.”
“Lie beside me like this.”
She spun around. “Now what?”
He picked up her hand and kissed her knuckles. “Now have some patience.”
It was weird lying on the comfortable mattress, facing the wrong way, staring at the back of the TV screen as the plane rolled along.
After a couple of turns the plane stopped.
“Hang on. Wait for it.”
The bumps were jarring when the plane started to accelerate. When it lifted off the runway, so fast, at such a sharp angle, she felt like she was standing up. And for just a moment . . . she felt weightless, as if she’d entered a zero-gravity chamber. Despite the stomach-churning sensation, she turned her head and looked at him with a smile.
He wore a boyish grin. “Pretty cool, huh?”
“How’d you figure it out?”
“I crawled in bed before the plane took off one night and damn near ended up ass over teakettle. It’s a steeper climb for smaller jets to reach altitude. Now, whenever I’m on this aircraft, I act like a kid who thinks he’s on a rocket ship during takeoff.”
She laughed. “Crazy man-boy. I thought you dragged me to the bedroom because you wanted me to join the mile-high club.”
Ronin rolled her on top of him and kissed her, mouth avid, keeping his hands clamped on her butt. Between his all-consuming kisses, he spoke against her lips. “Maybe we should take the edge off.” He treated her lips to a few more teasing kisses. “You seem tense.”
“You’re up for a quickie?” She moaned when he nipped the side of her neck and then soothed the sting with hot, slow kisses.
“Who said anything about a quickie? It’s a long flight.”
“Amery?” A soft kiss brushed her bare shoulder. “We’ve landed.”
She blinked, forgetting for a moment where she was. Why was she naked?
Oh right. She was on Okada’s private jet. And she was naked because her husband was a master at seducing her.
Amery reached up and touched his gorgeous face. “Hey.”
He pressed his lips to her wrist. “Hey, yourself.”
“How long did I sleep?”
“What time is it now?”
“We left Honolulu at four p.m. It’s nineteen hours' difference so it’s eleven a.m. here in Osaka. The next day.” He smiled. “Just in time for lunch.”
Amery stretched and stood. “Do I need to change clothes?” She picked up the pile of clothing and slipped on her bra and panties. “I’ve been in them . . . ? How many hours?”
“The time change will really screw with you if you think too hard about it.” His gaze moved over her as she yanked her black jeans up over her hips. “And technically once we ended up in the bedroom you didn’t have your clothes on for very long.”
Such a smug look. “I’m reminded again why I don’t wear clothes that need ironing since you tear them off me and throw them on the floor every time the opportunity presents itself.”
“At every opportunity, sexy wife of mine.” Ronin flashed his roguish grin before he pulled on his black cashmere mock turtleneck. He’d already slipped his jeans back on. He sat on the edge of the bed and donned his socks and motorcycle boots.
Amery loved watching Ronin get dressed as much as she loved watching him get undressed. Maybe it was a power thing; he wasn’t comfortable showing skin in public. The only time he let down his hair, so to speak, was around her. Only she knew what a powerful, muscular, hot body was hidden beneath his gi or his clothing.
He emitted a growl and she glanced up at him. “What?”
“You know what. Stop looking at me and licking your chops or we won’t get off this plane for another hour.”
She kept her gaze fastened to Ronin as she buttoned the bottom half of her pale pink sweater, leaving the gray lace of her silk camisole peeking through the top. “Might I remind you we’ve joined the mile-high club twice in the past however many hours?”
“That’s the only way to fly, baby.”
She couldn’t help but laugh.
“Give me a couple minutes to freshen up and then I’m at your command.”
By the time she exited the bathroom, the plane had come to a complete stop. Ronin was in conversation with the pilots and Nick but he broke off the discussion upon seeing her.
“Is everything all right?”
“Fine,” Ronin answered quickly. “Shall we?”
“Don’t I need my coat?”
“Not today. The weather in Osaka is beautiful,” Nick said.
Osaka? But weren’t they spending the first week in Kyoto?
“Everything onboard has been loaded into the car as per our instructions,” Nick added. “Your driver is waiting inside the terminal.”
“Thank you.” Ronin stepped aside so Amery could descend the stairs first.