Without warning the paddle comes down on me again, and my laughter stops. Three more times I feel the heat of its touch, and then it’s gone, and so is Chris’s hold on my hair. I gasp and fall forward, and more laughter bubbles from some deep place inside of me, but it’s not like any laughter I’ve ever experienced. It’s as if some unidentifiable emotion is being ripped from a deep part of me.

Chris turns me to face him and, embarrassed by whatever’s happening to me, I bury my face in his chest, curling into the hard warmth of his body. “Sara, look at me.”


“No.” I choke on more stupid laughter. “I can’t.”

He strokes my hair. “Laughter is like crying. It’s a normal reaction to the endorphins. Let it happen.”

“So I’m not crazy?”

He nuzzles my cheek. “If you’re crazy, then we’ll be crazy together.”

I’m not laughing anymore, and the emotion in my chest expands into something completely different. Something only Chris makes me feel. Flattening my hands on his chest, I lean back and stare into his eyes, and where I feared I’d feel vulnerable, I don’t. “Together,” I repeat and the word feels good on my lips, the way he does.

He lowers his mouth nearer to mine and his breath is a sweet seduction, a prelude to the kiss I crave, like I crave him. For long seconds, we linger like this and I swear I can hear my own heart beat. Chris moves first, his hand splaying on my back, molding me to him, and I tangle my fingers in his blond hair, but still we don’t kiss. We just breathe together, until the band of need between us snaps. Our mouths come together and we are crazy kissing, tongues tangling, hands all over each other’s bodies.

He cups my breasts, teasing my nipples in that rough, delicious way he does and I am on fire, burning up from within, where I need him now. I moan and shift my body to shamelessly, eagerly, straddle him. My arms wrap around his neck. “I really need to be inside you,” I confess, then blush to amend, “I mean—”

“You need to be inside me?” he teases, his laugh vibrating through my body, and tightening my sex.

“You know what I mean,” I chide. “And now you know why I never flirted with men. I suck at it. Why are your pants still on?”

“So I wouldn’t fuck you before you were ready.” He reaches for his jeans. “Lift up.”

We do some creative maneuvering and finally my hand is around his thick shaft, guiding him to me while he balances me. Then he is stretching me, filling me in ways far beyond the physical, in ways that reach deep into my soul. I take him fully, deeply, as completely as if I can’t get enough of him. We are in wild abandon together, the music pounding around us, our bodies swaying, grinding. Somehow we are both making love and fucking and it is perfection. It is right and real and absolute, like my love for this man.

Somehow, I am leaning toward his knees, and his hands are at my waist, shackling me, holding me up, his gaze stroking my nipples, while his cock strokes me to the edge. He drives into me, pulling me down, pushing up. Over and over. Harder and harder. The music filters into my mind again, and the fast beat seems to become a part of our erotic dance, until I feel the rush of release overwhelming me.

“Chris,” I plead as my muscles start to tense. “I’m going to fall.”

He scoops me up against him, enclosing me in his arms, pulling me down against his hips. He is thick and hard and my body reacts to the feel of him in me, against me. My sex tightens and then the spasms begin to rip through me. Chris buries his face in my neck, a deep, guttural groan escaping him as he shudders and spills warm, wet heat into me.

We collapse together, clinging to each other. Seconds tick by, or minutes . . . I don’t know or care. I’m with him. As he reaches behind him and turns down the music, I remember that first song and what he was telling me.

My hands cup his face and for once, it’s me forcing him to look at me. “It’s real.”

“What?” he asks.

“That’s what you were asking with that first song, wasn’t it? Is this real enough to survive anything, no matter how bad? The answer is yes—it’s real. And I’ll tell you what you told me in Paris. If you run, Chris, run fast, because I’ll come after you. That’s just the kind of bitch I am.”

I expect him to laugh, but he doesn’t. My name whispers from his lips, a tormented rough growl and his hand comes down on the back of my head, his mouth slanting over mine. His tongue sweeps past my lips, his kiss demanding, fierce, and I taste his need to believe me in it, his need to know we are right and real, and forever.

He doesn’t even stop kissing me when he picks me up and carries me to the bedroom. He cleans us both up, and then wraps me in his arms from behind. We lie there in our bed, legs twined together and it’s a perfect moment, so perfect that I dare to believe the past cannot rip this from us. Our demons are finally not as strong as we are.

Yet somehow, out of nowhere, I can almost hear Rebecca’s voice in my head as she reads her written words.

The rush of fear is far better than the defeat of boredom. The high of not knowing what comes next is so much better than always knowing one day will be like the last. Never anticipation, never feeling anything. No. I cannot go back. So why am I so terrified of going forward?

Nine

The nightmare happened again. I am on the trolley with a crowd of people, but I blink and they disappear. I am left alone with only one other person. My dead mother. I ask her, as I always do in these dreams, how she is here, but she merely smiles. There is something evil in her expression that hurts me and makes me question the love I’d thought she had for me. Is my subconscious mind telling me it was as fake as her stories about my father?

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