“You’re trying to distract me,” Price said, his mouth descending on mine even though his body remained stiff.

“Guilty,” I confessed, pressing my body to his. It didn’t take much to spark the need within me. I wanted him. Every nerve ending in my body craved him.

“What got you so upset?” he asked.

“Nothing important,” I murmured, moving my lips to his earlobe, down the curve of his neck, licking across his collarbone.

“We need to talk. Now,” he demanded.

“Okay,” I said, sighing deeply. “What would you like to talk about?”

Price leaned forward, his firm hands braced on each of my arms, pinning them to my sides. With his face inches from mine, my heart seized.

“Tessa, do you trust me?”

“Yes. Why would you ask that?”

“Then why do you shut me out? Why don’t you ever talk about you and your past? Other than our interview, you haven’t given me any information about your life before we came to the cabin.”

“I trust you…” Each word seemed to be a struggle. My lungs squeezed inside my chest. “The past is the past. Mine is just some cheesy country song that doesn’t need to be sung,” I added, trying to lighten the mood with a weak joke.

“So I allow you to shut me out?” he asked, anger simmering through his words.

“No, not at all. I don’t shut you out. I tell you everything.”

“Tessa, stop. This has been an ongoing problem with us. Whenever you’re truly upset or have something on your mind, you back away from me. Then it builds up and you snap like when you charged out of the house. I don’t understand why you can’t even answer simple questions like how your conversation with your mother went.” He glared into my eyes. “What’s going on with you?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but couldn’t find anything worthy to say. Price cursed and turned his back toward me. The action was so unfamiliar, so foreign from how controlled and collected Price usually behaved, that I just stood dumbfounded.

“I don’t know what I can do or say to change this. I feel like I’ve done everything within my power to reassure you that there’s nothing you can’t confide in me about. I feel like I’m losing this battle.” He raked his fingers through his hair. “But I sure as hell won’t lose without a fight!”

“Price? Why are you acting this way?”

“Because I’m trying to make sense of this relationship. I’m trying to make it work, but I need you to as well. Which means communication and getting to know each other. I’m sick and tired of this distance between us unless we’re in bed together. A lot of it is my fault too. But we have to have real conversations sometimes. We can’t just fuck and live in this little fantasy cabin world. I don’t like games, Tessa. I fucking detest them. So when I ask a question, I think I’m owed an answer and not a fake smile instead. We aren’t going to last if we can’t be open with each other. And I fucking care way too much to not see this last.”

I was dizzy, nearly blind with fear. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen Price this angry. He’d never actually yelled at me before. Never. He was composed to a fault at times.

Watching Price’s fury and his visible pain, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just spill my guts. Fear paralyzed me with the thought that I was about to lose him. I was going to lose it all. The overwhelming weight of everything almost seemed too much to take. But who in the hell wanted to hear about my white trash life? Who would want to welcome that into his life?

“We’re supposed to be celebrating your book,” I pointed out, my voice strained as I struggled to remain calm with Price’s glare sparking a heat infusing my neck and face. “Let’s not discuss this anymore.”

“I’m going to ask you one more time. What got you so upset? I want a real answer, young lady.”

The way he said ‘young lady’ sent a chill down my spine. I knew I was treading on dangerous water now. Rarely did he use that tone, and when he did, it usually led to a punishment. I was walking into trouble.

“I did give you a real answer,” I insisted. “It really isn’t anything that needs to be discussed right now. How about that wine? Would you like me to pour us some?”

His eyes narrowed, and without responding to my question, he asked, “Would you rather I spank you? Not the kind of spanking you’ve been craving, but a real spanking. One you haven’t had ever. Do I need to punish you because you absolutely refuse to open up to me?” When I remained silent, Price growled, “I want you to go into the bedroom and get undressed. Find a corner and go stand in it.”

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