I woke this morning to the dull ache of my raw backside, proof of his punishment. I did not wear panties when I dressed for work. I cannot bear the touch of anything on my skin. The dull ache eased as the day went on but the memory of my punishment did not.

I did, however, have several large sales today and my evening ended with a private showing of a famous artist’s collection. My clients were thrilled to meet the actual artist and I understand why. He has a gentle strength about him that carries through to his brush. He is passion personified and I wonder what it would be like to have a man like that feel passionate about me. I wonder what it would feel like to wake up my passion for life again, instead of just wondering what the new game will be. The games are no longer fun. They are not the escape they once were. He is not the Master he once was. I feel as if I am spiraling into darkness and I hunger for the kind of passion this artist has for life again. I hunger for more . . . but isn’t that what brought me to the gallery in the first place? A hunger for more? Maybe it’s the “more” that is the danger . . . because more just never seems to be enough.


I slam the journal shut and my mind is on one thing. The artist Rebecca has written about. It’s not Chris, I tell myself. Chris would never invite strangers into his home and studio for a showing. It has to be Ricco Alvarez, who is meeting with me about some private showings; he apparently used to do them with Rebecca. So why am I still thinking of Chris? It’s insane. “Inherently private” is how he described himself. And even if Rebecca was talking about Chris, there is nothing in this entry, or any other, that suggests Rebecca’s lover had been an artist. My gut tightens and I shove to my feet and rush back to the closet. I drop down on the floor in front of the safe, before setting the journal I’m still holding inside. I pull out the velvet box and lift the lid and stare down at the paintbrush and picture of Rebecca that is torn in two so that I can’t see who was in the photo with her.

“It’s not Chris,” I whisper. “It’s not.”

My cell phone begins to ring and I shove the lid down and stick the box back inside the safe. I give the journal a glare and shove it inside the safe as well, and then I shut the safe and twirl the combination dial into place. I’m making myself crazy and I have to stop.

Afraid I’m going to miss my call, I push to my feet and run toward the bedroom, certain it’s Chris, and reach it just as it stops ringing. A glance at the caller ID tells me it was Chris. I’m about to punch REDIAL when it rings again.

“Chris,” I answer urgently, sitting on the edge of the bed, hoping to hear something in this call to erase the journal entry and how it’s made me feel.

“If this was any other trip for any other reason, I wouldn’t be leaving.”

“I know.” As insecure as I can be, in this moment, I feel the connection between myself and this man. “I also know that what you’re doing at the hospital is important. Where are you now?”

“We just started to cross the bridge. I had to push my flight back an hour but I should still make all my scheduled events.”

“I knew you were pushing it to make the flight.” Guilt over the journal entry twists inside me and I can’t hold it in. “I’m weak, Chris,” I blurt out. “I read another journal entry after you left, but I’m done now. No more. I locked all four of the journals in the safe and I don’t want the combination. Just tell me when you get back.”

He’s silent for several seconds, which feel like an eternity. “Do I want to know what you read and what it’s making you think about us or me?”

“No,” I say firmly, trying to convince him, and maybe myself, too. “What matters is they’re locked up now.” My grip tightens around the phone. “I promised you I wouldn’t read anything else until you got back, and I did. I’m sorry. I don’t want you to feel my word means nothing.”

“You told me when you didn’t have to,” he says softly. “That matters, Sara.”

“You matter. You coming back to see me last night and worrying about me and so many other things, Chris. I’m not sure I really told you how much it all means but it does. It really does.”

“If you’re trying to make me want to turn the cab around and come back, it’s working.” His voice softens. “Saturday is going to take forever to get here.”

“Yes,” I agree. “Forever.”

“More so because I’m worried about you. I talked to Jacob before I left. He’s going to give you his cell phone number and if you need anything you call him. He’ll even take you to and from work if you want, though I know you well enough to know you aren’t going to agree to that.”

“No, but after what happened at the storage unit, I’m not complaining about having someone to call if I need to.” Had Chris not shown up last night, I’d have had no one to lean on, and it wasn’t a good feeling. “Thank you, Chris.”

“Thank me by staying safe and make sure you stop and talk to Jacob before you leave. If he’s not around have the front desk call for him.”

“Yes, okay. I will.”

“I’ll call you once I get settled in L.A. to check on you.” His voice lowers, turns soft and intimate. “Bye, baby.”

“Bye, Chris,” I whisper, and end the call, falling back on the mattress. I stare at the ceiling, my emotions all over the place. I really don’t know what to do with them or myself. I grab my phone, set the alarm for half an hour from now, and snuggle into a pillow, smiling as my nostrils flare approvingly with the heady male scent of the man making me absolutely crazy. “Crazy good,” I whisper.

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