Grinning, Elena shakes her head. “That sounds about right, but I don’t know what it means either.”

“Great,” I mutter dramatically, taking another small sip of my liquor, once again just enjoying the taste. “The blind leading the blind.”

“We’re hot messes.” She laughs, slipping her arm through my elbow and leaning into me slightly.

I don’t even compensate by pressing harder onto my cane. Instead, I take her weight all on my own and hold it without a thought as to my ability to do so.

CHAPTER 24

Elena

Hard to believe how radically things have changed in a week. It’s once again an early Sunday morning. As I come awake, I stretch. Hands above my head, I lengthen my body and feel my fingers brush against my wrought-iron headboard.

A smile plays at my lips as I remember how diligently Benjamin worked last night to tie me to the metal scrolls. Arms corner to corner, legs spread wide and secured with silk rope. He fucked me so hard that I thought my bed would break. Luckily, it remained secure.

As I stretch, my legs brush against Benjamin, who is currently sleeping on his stomach. Neither of us are long-term night cuddlers and have our comfortable sleeping positions, but we somehow always end up with our legs entwined.

It’s been a week since we went from a “sex only” relationship to a dating one, and I have to say, I’m incredibly happy. Benjamin has made it easy on me to go out on a limb with him because we’ve both been transparent with our reasons for being reluctant in the first place.

I realize it’s a bit of a bigger leap for Benjamin than me. My fears in getting involved with someone stem from repeatedly being taken advantage of. Sure, there was hurt involved, but I was tired of being disgusted in myself for falling for yet another codependent leech.

Benjamin has suffered such intense and emotional loss, and his fears are a whole hell of a lot scarier than mine. And when I saw him willing to take that risk, to admit he’s ready to finally open himself up to possibility, there was just no way I couldn’t not leap off that ledge with him.

We’ve settled into a routine based on our work schedules. If Benjamin has surgery, we stay at his place the night before. If he has regular patient rounds or office appointments, we stay at my place. Benjamin never once tried to make it seem like his job is more important. If anything, he’s recognized I work as hard in my career path as he does. Never once has he made me feel less than him by virtue of what we do for a living.

When I slide my foot along the inside of Benjamin’s calf, he stirs. He’s not a heavy sleeper, and he always wakes up if I do. I’ll roll out of bed at two to go pee, thinking I’m being stealthy, and he’ll sit straight up to ask, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

It’s sweet, but I also bet it’s because Benjamin is a worrier by nature. I suspect sleep brings him terrible things sometimes. I’ve been woken up a few times this past week to him having what I believe to be nightmares. Restless tossing, shaking, and muttering. He would then jerk awake, seemingly gasping for breath. I’d lay still, pretending to be asleep so as not to embarrass him that I’d witnessed such a thing.

Benjamin would fall back asleep, usually after moving just a little closer to my body, sliding his leg in between mine so we were touching.

I move my foot back down Benjamin’s leg, playfully rubbing my toe against his arch. His leg jerks from the tickling sensation, and he mutters, “Go back to sleep, Elena. You wore me out last night.”

I snort. It was totally the other way around. I tickle his foot again.

Benjamin moves lightning fast, flipping to his side facing me. His hands go to my ribs, and he starts to tickle me mercilessly.

I laugh, screech, claw at his hands, kick with my legs, and try to squirm away. “Benjamin… stop it. I’m going to pee.”

His eyes are heavy with sleep, hair all in disarray. His beard is thicker in the mornings, making him look older and wiser, but it’s the devilish sparkle in his eye I cherish because I love this playful side of his.

His hands still, and he pulls me in close. Lips to my neck, he runs a prickly kiss along my skin. One of his hands takes mine, then leads it between us. My knuckles brush against something hard and velvety.

“Look what I woke up with,” Benjamin murmurs against my neck.

He takes my hand, guides my fingers around his length, then makes me squeeze. I sigh, and he groans.

Lifting his head, Benjamin pins me with his soulful eyes that are filled with yearning for me. “Don’t go to church this morning. Let’s stay in bed all day pleasuring each other.”

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