“Okay, we’re gonna go get my husband a drink,” Francesca says, taking Sal’s hand and flashing us a smile as she drags him away.

“I can’t decide if I like him or not,” Mateo remarks, watching him.

“I think he feels the same way about you. I like him. I say he’s fine.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t trust your judgment.”

“Hey!”

He grins, pushing my hair back over my shoulder and leaning in to kiss my neck. I turn into a mindless vessel of pleasure, closing my eyes and sighing as every last nerve ending hums.

“I shouldn’t have told you that,” I realize, though I can’t bring myself to regret it with his lips moving along my neck the way they are.

“Don’t worry, you didn’t give anything away. I already know exactly what you like.” As if to emphasize the point, he pushes a hand through my hair tenderly, then gathers it tight in his fist, tugging my head back as his neck kisses get a tiny bit rougher.

Fuck.

I need to get off his lap. We do not have privacy, and he’s fast-approaching turning me on to the point that I don’t care.

I’m already throbbing with need, and I can’t do a damn thing about it. Fisting a hand against his chest, I murmur, “Stop torturing me.”

“You like when I torture you.”

“When you can follow it up by fucking me, yes—not when we have to go to dinner.”

“Anticipation. You can think about how much I wanted to yank this dress up and bury my cock inside you while you bring me my salad.”

I groan, burying my face in his shoulder. “That is so mean.”

He trails the back of his index finger down my arm. “Or you can imagine I pushed you in down in the floor, uncaring of who was around, and made you suck my cock.”

I press a hand against my face, feeling the heat, knowing how flushed I must be.

“So many possibilities,” he says, casually, as his hand drifts between my legs.

I squeeze them shut, darting a paranoid glance around us and biting back a grin. “Quit trying to molest me in front of our dinner guests.”

“You should’ve known better than to sit in my lap,” he remarks, dryly.

“I never learn anything, haven’t you figured that out by now?” I tease.

His eyes twinkle with amusement, since at least I’m in on the joke.

I finally get off his lap and do another round of drink refills before Francesca and I head back toward the kitchen. As soon as the study door closes behind us, she turns eager eyes on me. “You guys seem like you’re doing really well.”

“We are,” I agree, nodding and smiling. “We’re really good now.”

She sighs with relief, lightly grabbing my arm. “You have no idea how good it is to hear that. I couldn’t even sleep the night we had lunch. All I could think was, oh my God, it’s going to be Beth all over again.”

I wrinkle up my nose with dislike. “Nope, I’m not going to be another Beth.”

“You started to echo things she felt and it hasn’t even been two months. I was freaking out. I didn’t want you to feel like a prisoner, especially because, well, you would be if you were unhappy with him.”

“I know that,” I assure her.

Because I do; I’m not a moron. While this past month and a half has not been fun, I learned a couple things from it. Most importantly, the more I resist Mateo, the harder he fights to control me. When he knows he has me settled in the palm of his hand like his lovesick pleasure slave, he doesn’t worry about restricting me.

That’s maybe why Meg has so much freedom; Meg doesn’t really give a damn about anything outside of these walls. She never fights Mateo on anything, she’s very go-with-the-flow—she even let him have a sister wife. She’s super cool.

Me, I’ve been a little more of a hassle. As much as I hate to admit it, because I fervently hate Beth, I can see now how Mateo’s love might’ve started to feel like a prison sentence to her. I can see how she fell out of love with him—at the first sign of resistance, he starts stripping you of rights to try to cripple you, trap you, or keep you from trying to leave by whatever means necessary. Another couple weeks and I may have been an actual prisoner in this house. He probably wouldn’t have let me go to classes anymore, because his paranoia might convince him even that was too much contact with the outside world. He already cut my Saturday at the bakery because he didn’t want me to see Mark, but I think now that things are back on track, I’ll probably be able to get that back. There is a side to him, a more controlling side, that you just don’t see unless you’re in a relationship and it comes up.

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