“My neighbor bought a storage unit at an auction—people buy the ones that aren’t paid for and then sell the items for profit. She planned to do that but her rich doctor fiancé, who she barely knew, whisked her off to Paris. She left the storage unit for me to take care of.”

“You have a storage unit filled with Rebecca’s things?”

“Right. I couldn’t bear getting rid of her things. I wanted to find her and return the items to her. That’s how I started reading her journals and there were so many similarities in our lives that I knew I had to find her.”

“So you went to the gallery.”

His tone isn’t flat anymore. It’s sharp as steel, and his expression stony, his jaw tight, and nerves explode in my stomach in response. He doesn’t like what I’m telling him. I’ve made a mistake sharing this. “I was worried about her,” I say defensively. “I still am and...and my good intentions have snowballed out of control.”

He sets my legs down and straightens, staring at the journals. Seconds tick by, the tension in the room is volatile, stretching tighter, and I have a sense of a rubber band about to pop.

My gut clenches when he picks up one of the journals and I can’t breathe when he flips to a random page. I watch as he begins to read and his body is stiff, the muscle in his jaw flexing and re-flexing. I can’t move, can’t think of what to do to stop the explosion about to erupt.

Seconds tick by so slowly until he looks up at me. “This is what you’ve been reading?”

“I’m not sure which passage you’re referring to, but I’ve read most of the entries. I was worried about her, and I’ve been looking for clues to find her.”

He shoves the journal at me. “Read it out loud.”

“What?”

“Read the f**king entry, Sara, because I want to know you understand what’s on these pages.”

“I do,” I whisper. My hands are shaking.

His voice is low, lethal. “Read.”

I open my mouth to argue but his look, the glint in his eyes, freezes the words on my tongue. I don’t understand his reaction or why I’m compelled to follow his order, but I do. Slowly, I lower my attention to the entry, and begin to read.

Tonight he punished me. It was inevitable. I knew this. Looking back, I wonder if I didn’t taunt him intentionally by flirting with another man. I just…I don’t understand how he shares me, and yet he possesses me. When I was on my knees, my hands tied to the posts of the podium, waiting for the first smack of leather on my bare skin, I knew right then, if no other time, I was his world. There was nothing outside the room, nothing but what he wanted to do to me. What I wanted him to do to me. I craved the pain I knew he would inflict, as I never believed I could. Pain. It is an escape. When I feel the leather on my skin, I feel nothing else. There is none of the hurt of the past. There is--

Chris takes the journal from me and tosses it on the table, yanking me to him, his fingers curling around my neck in the way they do when he is in control. “Is this what you’re fantasizing about, Sara?”

“No, I--”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“It’s…I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

But he does. I know it instinctively. “I’m not--”

His mouth closes down on mine, brutal and punishing, hot and seductive, long strokes of his tongue caressing mine, until I can barely breathe. When he finally relents, his hand moves roughly over my breast, and his lips linger above mine, his breath hot, and his voice a near growl.

“You have no idea how tempting it is to give you a lesson you’ll never forget.”

Yes. Yes please. Give me a lesson. Every part of me cries out for him, for what he threatens me with. There is no fear. Only a white hot burn and desperation. “Do it,” I challenge. “Do it, Chris.”

He pushes me down on the couch, framing my body with his. “You don’t know what you are getting into, Sara.”

“Show me,” I pant. “Make me understand.”

He shoves my hands over my head. “Damn it, Sara. I should. I should scare the shit out of you and throw those damn journals away.” He buries his head in my neck and then he is gone, leaving me panting and empty inside.

I sit up, my sex aching and wet, my body screaming for some unknown pleasure it’s been denied. Chris is standing with his back to me, raking a hand through his long hair. “Fuck,” he curses, turning to me. “What are you doing to me, woman?”

He’s at the edge and I’m hungry for what is on the other side of his control. Starving in a way I never believed possible. Pushing to my feet, I go to him and I don’t give him time to react. I drop to my knees and caress the thick ridge of his erection. He wants me. He is aroused by the idea of teaching me whatever lesson he spoke of. I am aroused by the idea as well.

“What are you doing, Sara?”

“Pleasing you like you do me.” I shove up his shirt and press my lips to his stomach, popping his button at the same time.

“Sara,” he whispers, and I love the rough timbre of his voice. I love knowing I am affecting him as he does me. I unzip his jeans and reach beneath his boxers, wrapping my hand around the hard, warm flesh of his shaft, carefully freeing him from his clothes.

He’s staring down at me, his gaze nothing short of carnal, and I like it. Oh yes, I do. He is hot and hard in my hand and liquid pools at the tip of his erection, further proof of how on edge he is. I blink up at him and hold his stare, before snaking my tongue out and licking it off.

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