I push inside. “Almost done?”

“Yes,” he says. “This has to dry, and it will get another coat in the morning.”

Circling the sculpture, I take it all in. Swirling loops that are one connected line. The surface morphs from smooth to flowers to stars to hands and back to smooth again. I finish my circuit and look down at the signature. “Wait a second,” I say, seeing the name carved into the wood. “L.R. Mackenzie. You’re L.R. Mackenzie?”

Robert suddenly looks awkward. “Yeah. I thought you knew.”

My mouth hangs open. “Knew that you were one of the most famous sculptors in America? No, I didn’t know that.”

He smiles, suddenly seeming reserved. “There’s a reason you couldn’t find me through my money easily. I haven’t used my father’s money for anything but charity in probably ten years. Everything is under Mackenzie. It’s my mother’s maiden name.”

I realize something. “I told you my story about your father. You haven’t told me yours.”

Robert’s eyes darken. “No, I haven’t.”

“Are you going to?”

His jaw clenches, and he takes a deep breath. He’s silent for so long that I think he may not answer me, but he finally does. “It’s not just one thing. It’s a lot of things. For one, he cheats on my mother. All the time and without restraint. I know of at least one half-sibling. And yet my mother stays. She’s either oblivious or she loves him too much to leave, and every time I think about it I—”

Robert breaks off, and I can feel the anger coiling inside him. “And I worked for him for a while. I know what he does to people. He squeezes them, manipulates them until they’re indebted to him and doesn’t let them go. Every time it’s something more, and I didn’t like the fact that he thought ruining people’s lives was an acceptable business practice.”

“So you left?”

He shrugs. “I tried. By that time I had been experimenting with art—privately, because my father doesn’t believe that art is a real career. I’d sold a couple of sculptures, and I’d had offers for commissions. So I took those on and left the family business. I didn’t have the funds to do what I wanted to. To come out to some place like this. But I separated myself from the family as much as I could. And I eventually bought this place. Last year when I left I swore I’d never go back to any of them.”

There’s a knot in the pit of my stomach. “Until I showed up on your doorstep.”

“Until that.”

There’s nothing I can say to him, because he’s my ticket to freedom. I can’t say that he doesn’t have to go back because he does. We made a deal, and even though his father may be the devil, I have a contract with the devil and I need the money he’s offering.

Robert puts his hands on my shoulders and slides them down my arms. “But I’m glad he sent you, because if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t be about to take you upstairs and fuck you.”

“But—” I point at the sculpture.

He shakes his head. “It’s as done as it’s going to get tonight. And you promised me a show.”

“I did promise that,” I say carefully. “Okay. I have to get ready first though.”

Leaning in close, there’s a wolfish grin on his face. “Where do you want me?”

“Upstairs.”

Tilting my face up to his, he gives me a brief kiss. “More than five minutes and I’m coming to get you.”

My heart starts to beat faster, and I listen to him walk up the stairs before I sprint out into the living room to the pile of clothes I left there. For a tiny store in a town that can’t be more than a few hundred people, they had a decent selection of clothes. And the underwear set I found is adorable. I can’t believe I’m going to do this. I said I would because I didn’t think that he would be able to finish the sculpture tonight. I didn’t actually have a show planned. Serves me right for saying I’d do something I wasn’t prepared for.

I strip off my clothes and put on the new lacy set of panties and bra. They’re a deep burgundy that I think looks pretty good on me. And then I pull out the flannel shirt I took after Robert left the store. It’s even tighter than the one I had on in the dressing room with him and I’m spilling out of it. But it’s long, so I tie the ends up so my stomach and the underwear are showing. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got right now. I think it will be enough.

I climb the stairs and push open the door to Robert’s bedroom, and my breath catches. He’s already completely naked, sitting at the foot of the bed. His cock is fully hard, and a thrill of anticipation goes through me, my mouth watering. He’s given me one orgasm today, but he hasn’t fucked me, and I want him inside me as soon as humanly possible. The ways his eyes are consuming me right now, I’m sure that’s going to happen soon.

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