I shrug. “You don’t. I guess it’s a leap of faith.”

She nods, her gaze sliding off as she chews on her lip. Those eyebrows draw in over those glorious blue eyes as she contemplates.

Finally, she gives me a tiny nod. “Guess I’ll leap.”

I hadn’t known how important her answer would be until a lightness erupts within me, and I almost laugh in giddiness. To cover that up, I kiss her instead, using the moment to flip her beneath me on the couch. My hand goes right under the hem of her dress so I can find out if she is as moved by our kissing as I am.

There’s a sharp knock on the door.

Fuck… room service.

I growl like a lion protecting his mate, then yell toward the foyer. “I’m busy. Just leave the cart outside the door.”

No clue if I’m heard. Don’t care.

I roll us both off the couch, then carry Bailey to the bedroom.

We’ll eat later.



And so it begins… an attempt by Declan and me to have a relationship.

We decided to start out with something simple. Without pressure. Away from The Wicked Horse. I’m cooking him dinner at my home, and he should be here soon.

It’s not that we’re opposed to The Wicked Horse. We’ll probably go again. But Declan and I talked a bit that last evening in Chicago in his bed in the family suite. We focused on what a relationship would look like between us, given we hadn’t been looking for something like this.

It was comical, really. Sometimes, it felt like we were negotiating a new agreement we would ultimately put in writing. It was clear we were operating from a place where trust doesn’t come easily. I have no clue his reasons, but I suspect it has to do with the way he was raised. As for me, it’s merely that I got pretty badly burned by a man I thought I could trust.

My most significant demand, and it was non-negotiable, was exclusivity. While I loved my experiences at the club, I wasn’t into sharing, and I was clear about that. Declan called me cute, kissed me on my nose, and said he could agree to that. Surprisingly, he admitted he hadn’t liked those men touching me that night as much as he thought he would, so he was okay with a pure sort of monogamy. We agreed our playtime in The Wicked Horse—should we choose to go back—would only be with each other.

For now.

The other thing we discussed was safe sex. We’ve been using condoms, which is the norm for people who aren’t committed and don’t know each other. Declan asked if I would consider doing away with them since we agreed to exclusivity, and I was on the pill. To be honest, the thought of having that level of intimacy with him was appealing. It was also an indication this wasn’t a whim.

We were thinking not only with our bodies, but our heads and maybe a little bit with our hearts.

Both of us had STD tests today—not that we’re expecting anything wrong to show up—and we’ll get the results soon. To say I’m eagerly anticipating sex with that man without anything between us is an understatement.

I glance at the clock. Declan should be here any moment. Lasagna is my go-to meal, and despite my not being Italian, I make a pretty damn good one. It’s been cooling on top of the stove while the garlic bread browns in the oven.

There’s a bottle of red opened on my wobbly, folding card table in my tiny kitchen done in faded yellow wallpaper, chipped Formica counters, and weathered linoleum floors. The downside to renting is I’m stuck with the trappings since it makes no sense to make improvements to a temporary home.

I contrast this dinner setup to the one at Blackwood mansion night before last. Not a single piece of crystal in sight. My plates are from Target. When I bought them after the divorce, I could only afford a setting for four. The wine was only fourteen dollars, and we’re going to have to drink it from the cheap glasses I got with the plates. I don’t have linen napkins, only paper towels, and the only flatware is a fork and a butter knife. About the fanciest thing I did was pour the grated parmesan cheese into a bowl.

It’s a far cry from what Declan is used to, yet… I don’t feel inadequate at all. Because one thing about Declan is that while he’s accustomed to the finer things, I don’t think he is dependent on them.

He’s the one who brought up a relationship. He’s the one who suggested a quiet dinner in my home would be a great first date. He knows I can’t offer the expensive things in life, but I can give him an honest effort at making him welcome and feeding him well.

Tags: Sawyer Bennett The Wicked Horse Vegas Billionaire Romance
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