“That’s not the answer I want.”

“It’s the only one I have.”

“I know. I do and I can’t even say I blame you but that doesn’t mean I like it.” He shoves off the table, steps away from me, no longer touching me, leaving me cold. “We’ll talk tomorrow. We’re both tired. Take my bedroom. It’s directly above the foyer on the second floor. There are stairs you can’t miss. I can’t take you there. Not...now. Not tonight. I’ll be in the spare bedroom directly opposite the kitchen down here if you need me.” He starts to turn.

Desperation rises inside me. I can’t be without him. I don’t want to even try. I grab his arm, heat dashing up mine, our eyes colliding, torment burning in the depth of his. “Don’t go,” I whisper. Don’t leave me alone. I will him to touch me, to reach for me, but he doesn’t.

Arms tightly by his side, he curls his fingers into his palms. “I meant what I said. I’ll force my protection on you, but I won’t force me, or us, on you. And I can’t be with you and not touch you.”

Us. The word does funny things to my chest. “I didn’t tell you not to touch me. I’m just...” Raw and honest... “scared.”

“I know and it kills me to think you’re afraid of me.”

“That’s just it. I’m not afraid of you, Liam, and maybe I should be. Probably I should be. but I don’t trust myself. Not when I think about everything I could have done differently pretty much my entire life.”

“So if I feel right, I must be wrong.” It’s not a question.

“No. That’s not it. I mean...” I take a step toward him.

He steps backwards. “I can’t touch you, Amy.”

“I want you to touch me. I need you to touch me right now, Liam.”

“I won’t just touch you. I’ll do anything and everything in my power to make you remember us.

To make you believe your trust in us is as real and right as I know it is.”

“And that’s bad, why?”

“You aren’t hearing me, Amy. I’ve spent weeks of sleepless nights worried over you and now that you’re here, I won’t ask for what I want. I’ll demand.”

No one worries about me. No one knows I’m even alive anymore. No one I love even exists anymore. But him. He worries for me and I’ve run from him. I think I love this man but I can’t even trust that. I’m so sick of not trusting. Emotion wells in my chest and I squeeze my eyes shut. “Please, Liam. Please demand.” I step forward and I grab his shirt before he can stop me this time, as desperate, or more, than when I’d done the same with Tellar. “Don’t you get it, Liam? I want you to make the doubt go away. I want you to force away the fears. But damn it, I want you to deserve it, too. I want it to be real. I need something in this world that feels real even if it isn’t.”

He doesn’t move. He doesn’t so much as blink. He just stares at me with heat radiating from his eyes, and I don’t know what that means. What does it mean? “Or don’t,” I whisper, releasing his shirt. “Just don’t. Just let me go, then.” I rotate around and I don’t even know where I intend to go. The stupid table is right behind me and I run right into it.

Liam’s hand comes down on my arm and he turns me to face him. “I’m not letting you go. Never again. I told you that.” And suddenly, I am being thrown over his shoulder and his hand has flattened erotically, possessively, on my backside.

We are through the kitchen to the living room, and charging up a set of stucco stairs before I can fully process that he’s gone caveman on me. I can’t see what is before us, only what is behind us, but I feel him shove open a door, see the dim lights flicker on. Smell the wickedly spicy scent of him everywhere around me. We are in his room and I have only a glimpse of a giant space with more floor-to-ceiling windows before I’m on top of some sort of massive four poster black wooden bed.

I lift to my elbows, and Liam is on one knee, one fist planted in the mattress by my hip, his thigh pressed to mine. Heat radiates from his impossibly hooded stare and he reaches down and strokes my hair. “You want to force away the fear?”


“Then you have to be willing to feel it.”

I swallow hard. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing goes away because you pretend it doesn’t exist.”

“You think I haven’t figured that out?”

“I’ve been where you are and you aren’t where you need to be yet. Not with me and not with life. But you’re getting there.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Baby steps. You will.”

“I’m tired of baby steps.”

He strokes his thumb over my bottom lip, his eyes holding mine. “Then face your fears.”

I make a frustrated sound. “I am. I’m trying. I want to. You have no idea how much I want to.”

He stands up and pulls me to my feet, turning me and pressing my back against one of the posts. “Do you?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

He studies me, seeming to weigh my words, perhaps my conviction, and I wonder what he sees in me that I do not. “Lace your hands behind the post,” he says, his voice a gentle command.

It is not like he has never tied me up before, but there is a crackle of energy around him I have never felt. But when I look into his eyes I feel that connection I always do, see a promise I don’t have to understand. I simply want whatever it is that he offers. I lace my fingers as he’s instructed. He leans a hand on the wooden surface above my head, touching me nowhere, leaving me aching for him everywhere.

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