“You took that out of context. We met in college and she pulled me into the BDSM lifestyle.”

I’m shaken by his matter-of-fact announcement. She looks closer to my twenty-eight than Chris’s thirty-four. I’ve never even thought about him going to college, let alone having it be when he’d discovered BDSM. He started painting before that, and I just assumed he’d gone straight from high school to art. I wonder what else I’ve assumed that I shouldn’t have.


“Baby.” Chris strokes my cheek and I feel the touch all over.

Clearly my body is without the boundries of my mind. “Anything I had beyond friendship with Amber was a long time ago.”

“But it’s part of what deined who you are now, and she’s still a part of your life.”

“Yes. But where we’ve been is what brings us to the place you and I are now.”

He’s right. He’s completely right. So why is this still such an issue to me? I bury my face in my hands. “I’m confused.”

Chris pries my hands away from my face. “You are my present—and, I hope, my future.”

“Then why does she have a key and feel free to just barge in?”

“I have her keep an eye on the place when I’m gone,” he explains. “The security company told her I arrived and, since I came home without warning, she was afraid something was wrong. She’s only a friend, Sara.” His hands move to my legs.

“Nothing more.”

He’s staring at me, willing me to see the truth in his eyes, and I do. I trust Chris. Even when I was downstairs in the midst of that hell, deep down, I trusted him. I reacted to the situation.

And to Amber. “She still wants you, Chris. I felt it in the air.”

“I know.”

His directness stuns me, when it shouldn’t. It drives home why I trust him, but the answer is hard to swallow. “And you don’t see that as being a problem?”

He laughs. “All I am to her is a potential f**k who happens to be a friend. And she has no family. I’m it. I’m more a big brother to her than anything else.”

My brows dip at that odd description. “Let me get this straight. You’re a big brother and a potential f**k?”

“Yeah, well, she’s f**ked-up, and I know how to deal with all the cobwebs in her head.” He pulls me to my feet. “Let’s go make sure she knows you are the lady of the house.” He starts leading me toward the door.

My eyes go wide and I tug on his hand. “Wait. No, Chris. It isn’t necessary, and we have no clothes on.”

He turns to stare down at me, his blond hair a rumpled, alluring mess. “It’s not only necessary, it’s mandatory. I want you both to be clear that this is your home, and you are the woman in my life.”

I suck in a breath, touched deeply. “I know I am,” I reply softly. “And you know I am. We’re all that matters.”

He encloses me in his arms. “You’ll know even better, after we go down there and I introduce you to Amber.”

I’d rather meet Amber later, when I’m on more even footing. “But I’m in your shirt and you’re only wearing pants.”

His lips curve. “If that doesn’t make a statement, then I don’t know what does.” He motions to the door. “Let’s get rid of her, then shower and go to bed.”

The determined look in his eyes says it all. We’re going to do this. “I’m not going to like this,” I warn.

He smiles and kisses my nose. “It’ll be a lot less painful than being na**d on all fours in the middle of a rug while you stare at her.”

I cringe and press my head to his chest before giving him a sheepish look. “I really did that, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, baby.” He grins. “And you looked good doing it.”

I might have blushed at that comment, but the memory of why I’d frozen in that position hits me hard. I’d been stunned by the contrast of my dark hair and Amber’s light blond hair, my untouched skin, her tattoos. “We’re very diferent.”

He runs his hands down my hair and captures my gaze with his. “That’s a good thing, Sara.” In his usual elusive style, he says nothing more. He simply laces his ingers with mine and pulls me toward the door.

Anxiety ripples through me as he all but drags me down the stairs toward the living room, but he pauses at the bottom of the stairs and we stare at the rug. My mind goes to the moment that I kneeled down in the center, na**d and vulnerable, and completely willing because it was with Chris. Heat rushes up my neck and my cheeks lush.

Chris cuts me a sideways look, his eyes twinkling with the mischief I’ve come to expect from him. “Like I said. I’ll never look at that rug the same way again.”

His mood is contagious and I smile back. “It’s a very comfortable rug.”

His lips curve into a sensual smile. “It is with you on it.”

I lush, and the gleam in his eyes says he notices. He leans in and brushes his lips over mine, his voice low and thick. “We have many rooms to explore together,” he promises, and then motions me to our right.

The lightness in the air vanishes and my stomach knots, but I manage an agreeable nod. Reluctantly, and only because he is so adamant this is important, I let Chris lead me to the stairwell heading to the kitchen. Trying to remain composed on no sleep and a heck of a lot of emotional overload, I focus on everything but the potential Amber disaster before me, like how much I love the way the kitchen sits above the living area like a loft. I can’t wait to explore the entire house.

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