“No, wait. Please.” I sighed and pressed my temples, hating what I was about to admit. “A part of me…even when I’m fighting you every step of the way, there’s a part of me that wants to give you control over everything. Real life submission.” I cringed inwardly at the words as they left me. “The thought of letting go… I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a tempting and intoxicating notion. I’ve been taking care of myself for so long.”

He brushed his knuckles over my cheek, and warmth washed over me. He was hearing me. I wanted to believe that he could somehow understand, sense the weight I carried with so few people to really rely on.

“You take care of people, and I know I could trust you with anything I gave you. I recognize that and I fight it, because it scares the hell out of me. I can’t give you that much control in my life. I just can’t. But I think with sex, I could give you the kind of control that you want.”

“How are you supposed to do that? Flip a switch?”

“I think I can. I—”

“What about everything you’ve been through? How can you possibly think the things I want are healthy for you?”

“I don’t know what you want. Show me and I’ll tell you.”

He sighed heavily. “Erica, you’re a strong, independent woman. Unlike anyone I’ve ever met. You prove it to me every day, no matter how difficult I make it for you. And I don’t want to try to take that away from you, to bend you to do things that you really don’t want to.”

“How do you know I don’t want it?”

He shook his head and looked away. “What if I take things too far, and it’s something we can’t come back from?”

“I trust you.”

I kissed him, reveling in the silken friction of our bodies beneath the water. He was hard. Maybe he already had plans. I’d show him I could be the right person for whatever he needed. Then a chilling thought crept into my mind.


I wasn’t sure I’d even said her name out loud until Blake’s expression turned cold. His lips tightened into a thin line.

“Don’t, baby. We’re not going there.”

“No, wait. Was she on board for all this submissive stuff that turns you on so much?”

He hesitated.

“Just tell me,” I snapped. I didn’t want to dance around this with him.

He paused for a long moment. He nodded slowly, avoiding my eyes.

As quickly as he’d acknowledged the question, I wished he hadn’t. Fucking Sophia. I hated her now more than I had before. The jealousy nearly paralyzed me. Being physically compared to Blake’s model ex-girlfriend was hard enough. To know she’d been what he wanted sexually was almost more than I could take. I shrank back to my side of the tub. The water was becoming uncomfortably cool.

He eyed me. “It wasn’t a matter of her ‘getting on board’ with things. She wanted to be submissive with me. It was her goddamn idea. Needless to say, taking a dominant role with her wasn’t much of a challenge. But she always wanted to push things further. The things she wanted me to do bordered on dangerous at times. That’s not what I want with you. But being in that kind of relationship for as long as we were…”

“It’s what you crave now.” I finished his thought, knowing it was true before he could confirm it.

“Sometimes, yes.”

“The things we’ve done, were you testing me, to see what I could take?”

“In a way. I’ve pushed you. I think we both realize that.”

“And the times when I’ve taken control…”

He leaned his head back against the tub. “It’s been difficult for me. I’ve tried to be so careful with you, Erica. You have no idea.”

“Tell me what you want, Blake.”

“It really doesn’t matter at this point.”

“I deserve to know.” I held my breath, waiting for him to speak.

“Total submission. Total control over your pleasure and pain.” His voice was flat, matter-of-fact, as if he were negotiating a business deal and those were his terms.

My breath left me in a sharp exhale as the reality of his words hit me. Was that something I could give? A different kind of panic gripped me. I wrapped my arms around my knees, trying to stave off the chill that had now deepened. I couldn’t lose Blake.

“Fine, I’ll do it,” I rushed before I could really think it through.

A deep groove marked his brow and his eyes widened slightly, as if my concession truly scared him. He sat up out of the water, leaning his arms on his knees. “Why would you do that?”

“Because you mean more to me than anyone ever has. I need to at least try.”

“This isn’t about pleasing me.”

“You’re right. This is about me loving you enough to take a chance. I think I’m finally getting used to that.”

I stood up and toweled off on my way to the bedroom. I was trembling now, shivering. The water hadn’t been that cool. I was terrified. Why? Blake had never really hurt me. He’d never hurt me. I stood at the edge of the bed, unsure what to do.

Blake came up behind me. I fisted my hands into the terry cloth of the towel that was bunched around between my breasts. I took a deep breath to quell the quiet tremors that staggered through me.

“This isn’t what I want. What you’re feeling now. We haven’t even done anything and you’re scared to death.”

I turned to face him. “Tell me what to do. I’m nervous. I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong.”

“No, you’re afraid I’m going to hurt you.”

I clenched my jaw and hated that he’d given voice to my fears—fears that were so deeply a part of me. They’d followed me around for years. I wanted to cry at the thought that I’d never be free from them. “I know you won’t hurt me.”

“If you’re so sure, why are you scared?”

I swallowed hard. “You know why.”

He lifted my chin, angling my face to his. His eyes brewed with emotion in the soft light of the room. He was deciding. I could see the calculations taking place. He was weighing the pull of his desire against the very real chance that I could freak out if he did something too far outside of my comfort zone.

I dropped my towel and pressed my body against his. His skin burned against mine. My body began to unwind at the warmth of the contact.

He palmed my breast and took my nipple between his fingertips, twisting the hardened tip gently. “What if I just want to toss you on the bed and fuck you senseless? Vanilla. Missionary. Hard.”

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