Pleasure and Pain
With a swipe of my hand, I complete the final touches of the dragon on Sara’s shoulder in equal parts red, blue, yellow, and green. The painting is finally finished.
“Done,” I murmur, glancing up at her, where she sits naked on a wood and leather bench. She’s the woman I love, whom I asked to marry me only hours before. I would have sworn I would never love like this, never risk loss, but I can no longer imagine life without Sara. I don’t even want to try.
“Already?” she asks, brushing her long dark hair over her shoulders, her naked br**sts and creamy white skin a nearly irresistible temptation. “Really?”
My lips curve. “I’m fast when I’m inspired.” And Sara definitely inspires me.
She blushes, a contradiction to the woman who has let me spank her and do all kinds of naughty things to her. She’s adorable, sexy, and hot. Really f**king hot.
Standing up, she slips on the pale pink silk robe she’d taken from her luggage earlier, when we’d explored the castle that was once my parents’ Parisian country home. Now it will be one of our homes. It is ours. Everything I have is hers.
Casting me a tentative look, she asks, “Can I see?”
“Of course,” I say, rolling my chair over the concrete floor of my dungeon-level studio to give her space.
Almost shyly, she walks toward me, and I track the sexy sway of her hips until she stands before me and bites her bottom lip, her eyes shining with anticipation. She moves in front of me, the silk robe hugging her delicious backside.
I plaster my hands on my jean-clad legs. Otherwise I’d grab her and f**k her right now, before we even talk about the painting. And I like talking to Sara.
Her attention fixes on the painting of her naked body with a tattoo to match mine. With a dramatic gasp that is so completely Sara, she casts me an amazed look over her shoulder. “It’s your dragon.” She immediately glances back at the painting and lingers there a few seconds before she turns to give me a quizzical look.
I wrap my arms around her tiny waist and pull her to me, burying my nose in the sweet scent of her hair. “What is it, baby?”
She presses her hands to my shoulders, shifting slightly, and all those soft curves of hers are rubbing against me, stirring parts of my body to life that don’t lend to conversation. “Amber suggested she could ink me to match you.”
“I told you I like you without ink.”
“You say that, but you just inked me.”
“The painting isn’t about you getting covered in tats.” I lower my voice. “It’s about you being covered in me.”
Her lips curve slowly into a full-out smile. “I like being covered in you.” She traces the dragon on my bare arm. “And I like your ink.” Her smile fades abruptly. “Amber’s talented. It’s sad she’s so confused in life.”
An unavoidable, familiar burn begins in my chest at the mention of my ex, who I know is remembering the loss of her family this week and expressing it in all the wrong ways. “Yes,” I say. “Yes it is, and yes, she is very talented. You should have seen the dragon she inked over.”
Her brow furrows. “Inked over? What are you talking about?”
“When I was thirteen I had a small dragon tattoo. When I met Amber in college, she was appalled at its simplicity and insisted she turn it into the sleeve. It felt appropriate—I was changing, and it needed to change.”
She stares at me a moment and then cuts her gaze back to the dragon covering my arm and shoulder, as if it holds some key to the secrets I haven’t revealed. I slide a finger under her chin. “What are you thinking?”
“Thirteen . . . that was the year your dad moved you to Paris, to be closer to where—”
“My mother died, and to her memories. Yes. It was. And it was a hard year. The dragon became my sign of strength.”
“And money and power,” she says, reminding me of what I’d once told her.
“Yes. The money and power have always been about security to me.”
“Security’s everything to me, but I don’t see it as money or power.”
“Because your father used money and power as a weapon against you—which I will never do.” I lean in and kiss her. “You know that what’s mine is yours. I want you to share all of my world with me, Sara.”
She studies me, trailing her fingers down my jaw. “It means more to me than you know, that you want to share your life with me. I’m sorry that will never include your mother.”
Covering her hand with mine, I stroke her palm with my thumb. “You think coming here is about my mother’s death, don’t you?”
“No. It’s about seclusion. No whip. No outside influences.”
“To deal with the loss of your mother.”
“I didn’t take to the whip until the murder of Amber’s family. It was just an ironic twist of fate that it’s the same week as my mother’s death that somehow made the two erupt into guilt.”
“But her family’s death wasn’t your fault any more than your mother’s dying in a car accident was, Chris. You were mugged and you tried to save them. And the boy you shot—”
“Was a killer. I know, and I’d pull the trigger again if I had to do it over. But that doesn’t keep the images of his body, or those of Amber’s family, from haunting me, nor does it stop my guilt over leading Amber to the whip.” I hesitate. “And thinking about her seeking the whip for relief makes me want the whip. And yes, I know that’s f**ked up. You know I am.”