The door opens, taking me off guard, and Chris stands there wearing nothing but low-slung jeans and looking like he tastes of sugar. My eyes travel the rich reds, blues, and yellows of his dragon tattoo, which covers hard muscle and taut, tanned skin, and my mind plays something he’d said to me not that long ago. Do you know what happens when you push a dragon? They burn you alive, baby. You’re playing with fire. I’ve played with fire tonight with Chris, pushed him to be that dragon, and the way he’s looking at me now, the way he sees what I do not want him to see, is burning me alive. I know in that moment that I cannot keep asking Chris to show me who he is and not be willing to show him all that I am. My gut twists with the biting possibility that holds because it means confessing something I haven’t been completely honest about, something I don’t want him to know. Something I wish I could forget forever but it is carved in my chest like a brand that only seems to get deeper when I try to wash it away.

Chris draws my hand into his and my eyes lift to his and there is mischief dancing in their depths. “Come into the ‘man-cave,’ baby.”


Laughter bubbles from my throat and I am amazed at how he takes me from somber to lighthearted. I love this about Chris. “The ‘man-cave’?”

“That’s right. Are you scared?”

“I guess it depends what kind of man-cave we’re talking about. Wasn’t the room you took me to at that club called the Lion’s Den?”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be gentle.” He wiggles a brow and pulls me forward and I instantly forget man-caves and Mark’s club. I am standing inside a massive room carved into a circle and windows surrounding me on all sides, the twinkling lights of the city enclosing me like a glove. I have this sense of being at the railing of a massive ship, about to tumble into an ocean of never-ending discovery.

“It’s amazing,” I whisper, my gaze brushing his.

“I told you,” he says. “This is why I bought the apartment.”

I nod. “Yes. I understand.”

He releases me, silently giving me the freedom to explore on my own, and I walk deeper into the core of this magnificent studio. Random easels sit on stands, all covered in cloths, and I am excited at the prospect of uncovering them and seeing what is beneath. My gaze catches on the splattered paint here and there beneath my feet, and I smile at the remnants of his work, his frustrations, his excitement to get paint on canvas.

“I’ve been known to get a little messy while I work,” Chris informs me, stepping behind me, his hands settling on my waist, and I am instantly aware of him in every inch of my body. The sultry words of the song filter through the air—I just want to make you go away but you taste like sugar—and Chris leans down and murmurs something in French in my ear.

I shiver with the erotic way the words roll off his tongue and twist in his arms to face him, wrapping my arms around his neck. “What did you say?”

“I said,” he murmurs softly, “that I want to make you melt like sugar on my tongue like you did earlier.” He tugs the T-shirt I’m wearing up my h*ps and cups my bare ass, pulling me against the thick ridge of his erection. “And if I didn’t have a flight in two hours, I’d lick all that sweetness until you begged me to stop.”

“I don’t beg,” I declare, though I have no idea how I’ve formed what could be called a sentence when his fingers are tracing the crevice between my cheeks and promising delicious exploration.

“Oh, you’d beg, baby. I’d bet on it and if you tempt me much more I might just have to prove how fast. In fact”—he starts leading me toward a stool sitting in front of an easel—“I have time.”

Yes. Please. “Two hours and you still have to drive across the bridge to the airport? You don’t have time.”

“I have time.” He sets me on the stool and his hands settle on my waist. “Now, about the begging.”

I smile. “You’re going to miss your flight. You do know that, don’t you?”

He turns me to face the easel and tugs the shirt over my head. I brush hair from my eyes and suck in a breath at the painting I’m now staring at. It’s me, and I’m sitting in the middle of the floor of the “man-cave” on my knees with my hands bound in front me. “What’s that wrapped around my wrists?” I ask, my throat rasping with dryness when suddenly my hands are behind my back and I feel the tug of them being wrapped and bound.

Chris steps in front of me and holds up a roll of tape. “Very efficient.”

“Chris,” I whisper. “You’re going to miss your flight.”

His lips curve seductively. “You clearly underestimate my efficiency.” He goes down on a knee in front of me and spreads my legs. “Now. On to the begging.” His hands, those talented, artistic hands, travel up my thighs and his thumbs stroke my clit. “I’m on a timer, right? I’d better get busy?” His tongue drags slowly, sensually over me. “Like sugar, baby, and I’m going to melt you like honey.”

My body sways. “And I’m going to fall off this stool.”

“Not if you lean into me,” he says, and slides two fingers inside me. “Lean.”

I arch forward and slide. “I’m going to fall.”

“I have you, Sara.” His fingers splay on my thighs. “Trust me. I have you.” His eyes hold mine and the depth of power and heat I find there are as limitless as what he makes me feel. His voice softens into a caress. “Relax into me.”

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