Fifteen

I do not like public floggings, but I don’t have a say in the matter. He is my Master, and I’ve agreed to do as he bids. It’s better than when he shares me, though. I hate it when he shares me and I don’t care that he says it’s to please me. It pleases him, not me, as do the many watchful eyes I endured tonight. The flogging went on endlessly, with me tied to a post while he circled me, paying equal attention to every part of my body. When it was over, my ni**les were sore, my back raw, and my backside red. I was upset. I do not know why tonight was different than any other night, but it was, and I was. And then . . . he was.


I am not sorry it happened. It pleased him, and after the flogging he seduced me as perfectly as he’d punished me. And as I sit here writing this, I love him more than I ever have, but I can’t help but wonder what price I will pay for such an emotion. He’s made it clear there is no room for such things in his life, and mine too, for that matter. He believes claims of love complicate life and make people react irrationally. He says there is no such thing as love, only different shades of lust.

I blink awake with Rebecca’s journal entry in my head, and the soft glow of light in the room drags me from the hauntingly provocative entry. The dream fades, and my lips curve as I realize that Chris is holding me. His body is curved around mine, one of his gifted, artistic hands on my hip, and for once I’m not thinking of his talent on a canvas, but his skill at pleasing me. A girl could get used to falling asleep after being thoroughly sated and waking up with a big hunk of hot man wrapped around her.

“I like you in my bed. I think I’ll keep you here.”

My smile widens and I turn around to face him, finding his hair a sexy, rumpled mess partially because of my fingers. “It’ll be hard to catch our flight from bed.”

“I mean ever. Move in with me, Sara.”

I blanch. “What?”

He caresses my cheek. “You heard me. Move in with me.”

“You’ve only known me a few weeks.”

“I know enough.”

But he doesn’t. “You didn’t even invite women to your bed before me and you want me to live with you?”

“They weren’t you.”

I am warmed by his words, tempted to dive into a deep blue sea of risk with Chris, and I would, if not for my secret. “Chris—”

“Don’t answer now. Think about it over the weekend.” His cell phone rings and he rolls over to grab it from the nightstand. “Morning, Katie.”

I sit up against the headboard at the mention of his godmother and watch as he hits the remote control to open the electronic blinds over the window. Slowly, the gorgeous glow of the San Francisco skyline comes into view but I can’t appreciate it. I am reeling from the knowledge that I am out of time. I have to tell him everything and I am not ready.

“Yes, she’s here,” Chris replies to Katie.

My gaze goes to Chris. “Katie says hello,” he informs me.

“Hi Katie,” I call out, touched by her asking about me, and doing my best to seem cheerful when I’m holding it together as well as shattered glass.

“I’ll have to see what Sara’s schedule is and see when we can come out,” Chris continues to his godmother. I’m thrilled at his assumption that I’ll be by his side, until he adds, “I won’t head back to Paris without stopping out to see you.”

Paris. I wouldn’t believe I could be more shaken this morning than I already am, but that one word does the job of a jackhammer. All my assumptions that this invitation meant something are crushed. The journal entry I woke to screams in my head. He says there is no such thing as love, only different shades of lust. I can’t help but wonder if Chris feels this way, too. How can he ask me to move in, to change my entire life, when he’s going back to Paris soon? All for what? A few weeks of hot sex? It’s enough to shred my heart.

Tossing aside the blanket, I climb out of the bed, snatching Chris’s shirt I’d worn during a late-night kitchen raid, and the earthy, male scent of him sizzles through me when I pull it on. But then, why wouldn’t it? Hot sex is his expertise.

I rush across the room and I can feel Chris’s eyes following me, and I pray he doesn’t pick up on my frazzled mood. Seconds before I escape, his hand comes down on my arm, and I squeeze my eyes shut as I hear, “Let me call you back, Katie.”

Chris turns me to face him and I’m at the disadvantage of him being breathtakingly naked. “I have to go back for the holidays and my charity commitments,” he explains, as if I’ve asked a question. “I want you to go with me.”

I shake my head, knowing this will lead to certain pain. “I—”

“Have a job,” he completes for me. “I know. Do you have your birth certificate?”

“At my apartment, but—”

“Good. We’ll run by there and grab it so you can apply for your passport today.”

“I can’t just leave.”

“There are amazing opportunities in Paris and I can help open those doors for you.”

“My entire life has been about what someone else got for me. I don’t want to repeat that scenario. I won’t.”

“You’re afraid to count on me.”

“I’m afraid of not being able to count on me.”

There is a hint of emotion in his stare before his expression becomes unreadable. He drops his hand from my arm. “I understand,” he states, his voice monotone, his expression impassive.

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