As long as I keep control of her, of this relationship, everything will be fine.

It’s all just so new and I’m still adjusting to the way she makes me feel.

I just need to keep the upper hand and find a way to fit her into my life without throwing me into a fucking tailspin.

I blow out a breath and fall back against the seat.

Thank God I figured it all out.

My hands curl into the seat with the need to touch Meadow.

“Drive faster.”

I blow into the bedroom and find Meadow pacing in front of the window that overlooks the bay. She’s wearing a peach pair of panties and an off-the-shoulder T-shirt that bares her stomach. Her hair has been washed, but it’s still slightly damp, the long blonde-brown strands flowing around her shoulders and back. The sunset is giving off reds and oranges, the colors setting her soft skin glowing.

My heart rams against my ribcage. Bang bang bang.

Christ, she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Wait. Is she…crying?

She stops pacing abruptly and swivels to face me. A tiny sob leaves her and I feel it deep in my stomach, that proof of her distress.

“What’s wrong?” I rasp. “I’ll fix it.”

Her mouth drops open. “What’s wrong? I was standing in the kitchen with Helen having a cup of tea a-and some of your men rushed through from the living room saying…they said s-someone tried to assassinate you and—”

My pulse thuds in my ears. “That’s why you’re crying?”

She swipes at her eyes with frustration. “You weren’t supposed to see.”

I point at the ground in front of me. “Come here.”

Meadow snorts at my order.

“No one’s ever cried for me before and I…” I stop to clear my throat, but it won’t stop hurting. “Please, will you come here to me?”

Her composure slips and more moisture rushes to her eyes. I swear to God the earth shakes under my feet when she runs to me, throwing herself into my waiting arms. “Is every day going to be like this?” she asks into my chest, muffling her words.

“No, baby. No,” I say in a hushed voice, lifting her off the ground so she can wrap her legs around my waist. “Today was a bitch.”

Her laughter is watery. “Yeah, it was.”

With my heart hammering out of control, I desperately try and remember the plan I came up with on the way home. What was it again?

Keep control of her.

Keep the upper hand.

Fit her into my life without throwing myself into a fucking tailspin.

Right.

With her softness cradled against me and her tears wetting my neck—tears being spilt on my behalf—panic begins to rise within me. There’s no controlling the way she makes me feel. It’s a juggernaut, wrecking everything in its path.

“You’re all tensed up,” she whispers near my neck, her thumb digging into the muscles just above my collar, rubbing in a circle, sending a rush of pleasure down my spine. Goddamn, that does feel amazing. “Let me help. Please? I love massage. I’d…love it most of all if I could give you one.”

Slowly I walk us to the bed and sit down on the edge, keeping my girl facing me in a straddle.

“Why do you love it?”

She sits back a little so I can see the light that comes on behind her eyes. “I love when someone comes in stressed out and I can feel the knots in their back or neck. By the time I’m finished, I’ve worked them out, with nothing but my thumbs or elbows. It’s so satisfying. I like being able to do that for people. Being useful makes me happy.” She rolls her lips together. “Let me show you what I do.”

My desire to give her anything she wants butts up against my bone-deep reservations. “I was taught to never make myself vulnerable. Taking off my clothes and giving someone my back, closing my eyes…” I shake my head. “I don’t think I can give up that much control, Meadow.”

“Not even to me?”

Oh fuck. I really don’t like that hurt expression on her face. Feels like someone is digging through my chest with a rusted knife. “It’s important to you?”

After a second, she nods. “I want to show you what I’ve worked so hard to learn,” she says quietly, playing with the ends of my hair. “But maybe even more than that, I want to make you feel better. I can’t protect you from bullets, but I can do this. And I think allowing yourself to trust might make you feel best of all.”

With our gazes locked, I swallow hard and begin unbuttoning my shirt and the undiluted pleasure that dances onto her face distracts me from my misgivings. “Dangerous girl,” I murmur. “I’d jump from an airplane without a parachute to get you to look at me like that.”

She laughs. “You’re comparing a massage to jumping out of a plane?”

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