“Okay,” I drawl hesitantly.

“I get this is just sex, and I’m fine with that. You’re right… it’s the only thing we’re both interested in. But are we monogamous?”

“Yes,” I answer firmly. I sure as fuck know a great thing when I see it—or rather, feel it—and I don’t have interest in anyone else. In fact, I couldn’t care less if we ever return to the club.

“Then I need you to explain something to me.” Her voice dropped an octave, and I can tell this is important.

“What’s that?”

“If sex is all this is, and all it will ever be, why did you break things off last time?” she asks. The hardnosed question causes my gut to pinch, because it means admitting a terrible vulnerability as well as divulging she’s done a number on my head already.

I decide to tell her most of the truth. “I had not realized Father’s Day was coming up. I’d overheard some people talking about it, and it caught me totally off guard. Frankly… I sort of spiraled down.”

“That was the night you stood me up?”

I nod. “Stood you up. Canceled a surgery and sort of went off the grid for a few days. Drank a lot of alcohol.”

“I’m sorry, Benjamin,” she says. Her voice is so gentle, yet it’s filled with hurt on my behalf. It makes my chest ache. “I hate that for you, and I can’t even imagine what that was like.”

My throat clogs with emotion, and I can’t respond.

She squeezes my hand. “If you ever need a break again, I’ll understand.”

Fuck… the urge to cry from her understanding of my pain hits me hard. I can do nothing but give her a short squeeze back and a false smile, and I rise from my chair.

Giving her my back, I turn toward the fridge again to make our dinner. “I’m starved,” I say lamely, grabbing the spring salad mix, tomatoes, cucumber, and an onion from the vegetable drawer. I move to the counter, keeping my back to her as I start to prattle on about my last surgery.

I let my hands work on our dinner while I use inane conversation to lead me away from the emotion that was starting to overwhelm me. Yet, I can’t quite forget how much her empathy touched me.

Way too fucking deep.

I start to slice the cucumber when I feel her hand at my bicep. It slides down my arm, and I freeze into place. She takes the knife from me, sets it aside, and then curls her fingers around my bicep again whereby she gives a tug for me to face her.

I resist, terrified she’ll want to talk things out with me or want to psychoanalyze my pain. I don’t want to talk about it. Not with her. Not with the one person who has woken up the feeling within me in over a year.

“Benjamin,” she calls gently.

Hesitantly, I turn to face her. When my eyes land on her, they widen in shock.

Elena is completely naked, and she has a playful smile on her face. All thoughts fly out of my head, and my cock responds accordingly.

And I can see by the expression on her face, it’s exactly what she was aiming for. Elena was pulling me away from the emotion of the candid moment we shared, putting things back onto the only plane of existence that feels comfortable to me.

“We can eat later,” she says.

I put my hands on her waist, and easily lift her to the counter that separates the kitchen and living room and is currently without vegetables and knives. Her legs spread and I step in between them, bringing my hands to her face so I can kiss the ever-loving fuck out of her. She puts her hands on my belt. While she works to free my cock, I thank my lucky stars I found a woman such as this.

One who knows my limitations and is fine working within them.

CHAPTER 22

Elena

I slowly awaken. The grayish light tells me that it’s early morning, and I let a long, luxurious stretch overtake my body. My arms extend over my head, hands locking, and I reach out to touch the headboard—not the railing from my wrought-iron bed—and I realize I am not where I normally wake up on a Sunday morning.

My entire body locks tight. Slowly, I turn to the right and see I am all alone.

In Benjamin’s bed.

I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved. Disappointment would mean I remember the benefits of snuggling up to a man in the early morning hours after a long night of passionate lovemaking. There is something so comforting about pressing against a warm naked body, knowing it had cherished you the night before. But on the flipside, I should be relieved because Benjamin is most definitely not a snuggler and being rebuffed would be a cold slap in the face.

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