“Right,” David concurs. “And while I can protect you from everything in the court system, I can’t protect you from the press unless they slander you.”
My heart lurches. Suddenly the scandal seems like a much bigger worry than it did moments before. “What about Chris and his charity work? This could ruin him.”
“Baby, I’m fine. I can handle my charity.”
“You can’t be sure of that,” I argue. “Lance Armstrong created Livestrong and they had to break free of him to survive.” I turn to David. “Can we threaten them with slander charges now?”
David grimaces. “That’s not an option.”
“Why? They could ruin Chris, and—”
“Sara, sugar,” he interrupts, his tone as condescending as it gets. “The detectives were wrong. You’re the one who needs to lay off the caffeine. Let me do my job.”
My jaw drops. Did he really just call me “sugar,” and tell me to let him do his job? I’m officially at my threshold for arrogant assholes today. Then his phone rings again, and he answers it without so much as a raised finger.
“Sara,” Chris says, squeezing my leg to get my attention.
I tear my gaze from David and look at Chris. “His job should include protecting your reputation and your career.”
“Don’t ‘baby’ me right after he called me sugar,” I snap. “I’m going to the bathroom to deep breathe.”
His grip tightens on my leg. “He’s just high-strung.”
“If you try to keep me here, be warned that I have a very vivid fantasy in my head right now, which involves me dumping a pitcher of beer over David’s head.”
He grins and lets go of my leg.
“I thought you’d agree.” I head toward the restroom sign, go down a narrow hallway, and lock myself in the small room, where I lean on the sink. David’s dismissing the real danger the press could do to Chris. We can’t wait until it’s already happened to come up with a plan.
I’ve barely had time to think when a knock sounds on the door. “Sara.”
I unlatch the door and Chris enters, locking the door behind him. Certain he’s here to sing David’s merits, I say, “He’s an asshole, Chris. The press cyclone is going to hit, and we have to be ready. We have to get you cleared, and you have to go to Paris and do your charity event, away from all of this. Distance yourself from this nightmare. You have to.”
He backs me against the counter, his hips pressed to mine, and the teasing, sweet lover of moments before is nowhere to be found. His jaw is tight, his eyes hard. “Did you really just suggest I leave you to deal with this alone?”
“You still don’t trust me.”
“What? That’s crazy, Chris.”
“It’s accurate. In the back of your mind, you still think that if something punches my buttons like Dylan did, I’ll leave. I told you. I’m not leaving, and I’m not letting you doubt us anymore.”
“I don’t doubt us.”
“You do. But we’re going to fix that and I’ve already figured out there’s only one way to do that, aside from me melting down and you realizing that I’m here to stay. I’ve taken things slowly to protect the trust between us, but we’re ready for what comes next, and I’m going to push you and push you hard. I’m going to tear down every inhibition you own until I own them. I’m going to make you crazy wondering what will be next and even crazier when it comes. I’m going to take you to places you think you can’t go, and find out you can. And when you say ‘I do’ to me, there won’t be any doubts or any barriers left. Are you prepared for what that means?”
“Yes,” I whisper. “It’s what I’ve been asking for.”
“Then we start now.” He turns me to face the counter, shocking me by yanking my skirt up and palming my cheeks. His eyes meet mine in the mirror. “I’m going to spank you. There won’t be any foreplay or fucking after. It’s going to sting. You will not cry out. When I’m done, I’m leaving, and you will bring your pretty little backside and sit down next to me like nothing happened. And when I’m ready, I’ll fuck you. Choose now. Accept it or not.”
The idea is horrifying and sexy, and I’m wet and aching and so many things at once that I can barely breathe. “I . . . yes. Yes, I do.”
He yanks my panties off and stuffs them in his pocket. His hand comes down on my backside and it’s such a shock, I barely swallow my yelp. Already his palm is on me again. I try to count. Three. Four. Five. Oh God. Six.
He turns me to face him, his hands going to the counter, not touching me. I’m panting in pain and pleasure, my knees weak. “Pull your skirt down and come back to the table. I want you there in two minutes. If you take one second longer, I’ll bring you back in here and spank you again. Understand?”
He turns and leaves the bathroom.
It hurt in a bittersweet, arousing way, and while I felt exposed and vulnerable, I’ve come to know those things arouse me in ways I never thought possible.
Rebecca’s words replay in my mind as I grab the sink to steady myself, the ache in my backside radiating down my wobbly legs. I’m warm all over, wet between my thighs, and so aroused that Chris’s absence hurts far more than his hand. Until now, I had never understood what drew Rebecca to this kind of encounter. It’s like I am spinning terrifyingly out of control, and yet somehow it’s delicious in a forbidden, fantastic kind of way. Chris is pushing me. I want to be pushed.