Time ticks by and my heart starts to race again, wild, so wild. I need him to do something, anything, and when I think I might lose my mind and shout with anticipation, oil covers my back. His hands move rhythmically over my skin, my nerve endings screaming with tingly, achy sensations as the wax begins to crumble away. On and on this goes, and I feel as if my back can take no more when finally he caresses lower, over my hips, my backside. In no rush, he lingers there, touching me, soothing me. Arousing me. Knowing there is no spanking to follow, the tension I didn’t know was there slips away. As if that’s the moment Chris has been waiting for, he shocks me with the intimate invasion of his fingers tracing the crevice of my cheeks. I stiffen, a thrill of anticipation and renewed arousal overwhelming me, but his fingers don’t move to my sex. They linger in that intimate part of my body where no man has been.

The realization of what he intends hits me and I arch my back. “Chris—”


His hand flattens on my lower back. “Easy, baby. Have you ever—”

“No,” I say quickly. “Never. Chris—”

“Deep breath, baby. Just like last night. Nothing but pleasure.”

“Yes,” I breathe out, panting to bite back further objection. This is about trust, and I trust him.

“Pleasure,” he repeats, and he begins stroking again, only this time his other hand teases my sex, distracting me from my fear. His fingers stroke through the liquid heat of my arousal, all the ways he is touching me, all the sensations, overwhelming me. I am climbing to the edge of orgasm, so lost that it takes me a moment to realize that his fingers have entered me front and back. I still can’t process. I can’t protest. I don’t want to protest. “Chris, I—”

My words are lost to the deep stroke of his fingers, an arch of my hips. “You what?”

I don’t even remember what I’d been going to say. Sensations spiral through me, a wicked wonderful darkness consuming me. I think he asks me something else. I don’t know. There are only his fingers pumping into me, sensations spiraling inside me.

“Oh,” I gasp. “I . . . I’m going to . . .” I spasm around him with intense, amazing pleasure that seems to last forever, yet leaves me panting for more when it ends. Exhausted from the intensity, I sink deeper onto the pad beneath me. Chris slides his fingers from inside me, his hands momentarily resting on my hips. Something soft and silky rubs over my back, drying the oil, and then I’m being scooped up in his arms and carried.

I curl against his chest, my bindings making it impossible to hold on, but I’m completely secure that he won’t drop me. My nostrils flare with the rich, warm scent of our room, and I expect to be laid on the bed. Instead, I am sat down on our bed as he pulls away my blindfold.

The instant I see his face, emotions burn in my chest and damn it, my eyes. I want to blame it on adrenaline again, but this time, I’m not sure it is. It’s the past bleeding from deep in my soul, refusing to be buried.

Chris reaches in the nightstand and produces a pocketknife, slicing my bindings free. The instant I’m free, I wrap my arms around him and press my lips to his. His hand comes down on my head, his mouth angling over mine, but it is me who is kissing him, me who is crazy hungry for this man I do not want to lose.

“What haven’t you told me?” he demands, tearing his mouth from mine.

“I need you to know something first. Our first night together, I hadn’t let another man touch me in two years. I felt no fear with you, Chris. No hesitation. It felt right with you, freeing in every way. And you know what I’d been through now. So you know how huge that was for me.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because tonight’s panic attack wasn’t just a panic attack.”

“What does that mean?” he asks quietly.

A shiver races over me, and he wraps the throw blanket at the end of the bed around me, holding on to the edges. “Talk to me, Sara. I need to understand.”

I nod. “Back when Michael . . . when . . .”

“He raped you.”

“Don’t call it that.”

“You need to face what it was, to deal with it. And if that means going to that counselor we talked about in Paris, then we go.”

“I suggested it; I know. And we should. But right now, I need to start with you.”

“I’m listening, and I’m in all the way, baby. Whatever it is, right or wrong, I’m here.”

“I know. I just hope you don’t end up regretting it.” He starts to object and I touch his lips. “Just listen.” He gives a short nod and I let my hand slip away. “After I threatened Michael with the protection order, I was terrified he’d come back. I hid inside my apartment a lot and kept to myself. A couple of weeks later, while I was teaching a class, a sudden panic came over me. I ended up in the bathroom in a cold sweat, not knowing why. There was no obvious trigger. And so it began—one panic attack after the other.”

“How often?”

“Daily, for six months. I was alone and had no one to talk to that I trusted. I thought about seeing a counselor then, too. But knowing how Michael operates, I also knew I was being watched, and he would have seen seeking counseling as a weakness that made me fresh prey all over again. I dealt with it on my own, and thankfully the attacks stopped as abruptly as they began.”

“You know why they started. Do you know why they ended?”

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