“No. You don’t.”

“But you took me to that club last night. You wanted me to understand.”


“I wanted you to understand where Mark would lead you and why I wasn’t going to let that happen. Rebecca didn’t belong in this world and you’ve read how it tormented her to be here.”

“You told me I don’t belong in this world, either,” I manage, choking on the words.

“You don’t.” His jaw clenches. “Which is why I tried to warn you away and why I tried to walk away.”

My stomach knots. “You still can.” I start to get up, suddenly needing an escape, and this time Chris can’t give it to me.

He shackles my wrists in his hands and pulls me to him, between his legs, on my knees. “That’s just it. I can’t and I don’t want to even try. And I don’t want you to, either.” His expression softens and he brushes his knuckles over my jaw. “You’re inside me now, baby. All the rest was how I stayed outside myself and I’ll be damned if I let it tear us apart.”

I soften instantly at his confession and my hand slides to his face. “It’s the unknown that scares me, Chris. It’s what you need, the pleasure inside the pain, that I can’t possibly understand, and that terrifies me. I need you to make me understand.”

“You do understand, Sara. More than you know. More than I wish you did.” His mouth closes down over mine, hot with demand, and I know he believes this conversation is over, that he means to end it with the wicked caress of his tongue against mine, the possessive splay of his hands on my body. But I refuse to be this powerless, to be silenced with the very passion that drives me to need to understand this man.

“No,” I gasp, and shove against him, breathless as I meet his gaze and demand, “Make me understand, Chris.” And on some level I know this is that unknown place I’ve craved to go with him, that place he hides from me, that place he wants to take me. This is where we have to go, where we’ve always been headed.

Five

“You want to understand?” he asks, his voice low, his eyes ripe with challenge.

“It’s not about want. It’s about need, Chris. I need to understand.”

He considers me, his expression impassive, but his pale green eyes shimmer and then burn. “Stand up and take off your clothes, Sara.”

After a moment of hesitation, I decide his command is as close to an agreement as I’m going to get. It’s enough. I stand up and walk to the bottom of the pedestal and Chris shifts to sit against the bed. In spite of this power play he is using on me, or perhaps because of it, there is something wickedly erotic about standing before this man and undressing. This brings my vulnerability back to the forefront. It is an act of trust, and my chest tightens at the implications of giving myself to him, of why he might need me to do this. I think . . . I think he needs to know that I’m not holding back, that he’s shown me his dark side, and I am still willingly his.

Yes. I am willingly his. Suddenly, I want him to know this more than ever.

With a lift of my arms, I peel away my T-shirt and toss it away. My hair catches on my mouth. I tug away the long, dark brown strands and Chris’s gaze settles on my mouth. My sex clenches because I know he is imagining my mouth on his body and I very much want my mouth on his body. But he is always in control, deciding what I do and don’t do. I vow right then that he won’t tonight. Now, yes, but not all night. At some point before he leaves for Los Angeles again, my mouth is going wherever it damn well pleases. I cannot be na**d quickly enough. He will leave in the morning for a week. There is much unresolved between us. Too much.

I strip away my clothes in seconds, and I’m pretty sure the art of the seductive, slow striptease is really not my forte. I’ll work harder at it when I want to tease him and not me. I just need Chris right now. I need to be na**d with him, all barriers gone. I need him to know that I want to understand him because he matters, because we matter. Because life made me believe that what is blossoming between us wasn’t possible, but maybe, just maybe, it is.

“Come here,” he commands urgently as I toss aside my panties, his voice gravelly, affected, and I revel in the impatience in him that matches mine. It is still hard for me to believe I affect him sometimes. He is so many things that I aspire to be: strong and powerful, confident and in charge of his life, his destiny. It moves me to know I make this man as hot as he makes me. It makes me stronger. He makes me stronger.

I go to him, letting him pull me to his lap, straddling him, his thick erection settling between my legs. I do not like that he is fully dressed, but I know this is about control to Chris. I know on some level I have taken it from him and he needs it back.

“Lace your fingers together behind your back,” he orders.

Adrenaline rushes through me instantly and my heart thunders in my chest. Yes. This is about control with Chris, but in his control he’s revealed far more than he knows. He has to have it and that says much about him. That I have some deep burn to let him have it says just as much about me, I know.

Watching his face, I search for a reaction I do not find as I slide my hands behind my back. His hands settle firmly on my upper arms, branding me with his touch, even as his gaze rakes over my br**sts. The air crackles with a charge I feel in every inch of my body, before his eyes lift to mine and his voice is rougher now, tighter. “Lace your fingers together, baby.”

I do as he bids and the instant I comply, he lowers his mouth to linger above mine, his hands still holding my arms, his breath warm, teasing me with the kiss I burn for, but he withholds. I am breathless when his mouth brushes mine, and shocked when his teeth nip my bottom lip. I yelp with the sting and my fingers loosen behind me. Chris holds my arms in place, so I can’t reach for him, and his tongue snakes forward. He licks the wound before he delves deep into my mouth, stroking me into a compliant moan.

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