“It’s fine, Elliot. I understand. You have a lot going on.”

“Thanks.” He sighed quietly. “You’ve always been so level-headed. Even when you were younger. Sometimes I think you had it together more than I did. I know your mother would be proud of the woman you’ve become.”

“Thanks. I hope so.” I closed my eyes, letting a remembered vision of my mother take over my mind. Despite the strong facade I kept up, my heart hurt at the memory—times when the three of us were happy. That time had been cut short abruptly when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, a disease that ripped through her at an alarming speed and took her from us too soon.

While our lives had gone in different directions after her death, I hoped Elliot had found happiness with his new wife and their children. Even if it had come at the expense of any normal childhood for me. Boarding school and then college had raised me, yet I couldn’t imagine it any other way. This was my life, and the journey had brought me to Blake, to a life that was finally beginning to take shape now that school was behind me.

“I have been thinking about Patricia a lot lately. I can’t believe it’s been almost ten years. Life runs away from you sometimes. Made me realize how long it’s been since we talked.”

“It’s true. The past few years have really been a blur. Especially lately. I was crazy to think I was busy before.” Between the business and my relationship with Blake, my life had been turned upside down a few times over. Just when things started to calm down, life seemed to throw us something new.

“Well, I’m going to see if we can make it out to Boston soon. I can’t stomach the thought of letting ten years go by without...you know, some kind of acknowledgment. We owe her that much.”

My mouth curved into a sad smile. “That would be nice. I would like that.”

“Great. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Let me know if you pick dates, and I’ll coordinate things on my end too.”

“Perfect. I’ll talk to Beth about it soon and let you know what we decide.”

“I’ll look forward to it. I’d love to see you again, and of course meet your family.” Your family. The words sounded strange as they left me.

“Take care, Erica. I’ll be in touch.”

I said goodbye, but the second I hung up another call came in. My heart sped up when I saw Blake’s number.


* * *

I stepped into the apartment and dropped my bags onto the counter in the kitchen. The lights were off, but the afternoon sun peeked in through the shaded windows. As I moved into the living room, I heard Blake’s voice.

“You’re late.”

I spun to find him at the bar on the other side of the room. He was shirtless, barefoot, and held a half empty tumbler in his hand. His face was void of emotion yet somehow filled with an intensity that had me immediately on edge. His green eyes seemed to glow in the dim light of the room. His jaw was tight, loosening only briefly to take a drink.

“I’m sorry. I got a call—”

“Come here.”

I let my next words fizzle out unspoken. We weren’t going to be discussing Elliot’s unexpected call, at least not right now. Something was off about the way he looked at me, the unforgiving edge in his voice as he uttered those two little words.

I walked slowly toward him until we were inches apart and the heat radiated between us. Blake was undeniably gorgeous, male beauty perfected. Tall and lean, his body had my brain regularly short-circuiting. This was no exception. I touched his chest, unable to resist in our proximity. The muscles flinched in response.

“Take your shirt off,” he said.

I searched his eyes a moment but found no humor there. He stood before me like a statue, a beautifully carved work of art, cold and unmoving. I feathered my fingers over his abs, trailing them to the band of his jeans slung low on his hips.

“You okay?” I murmured. I’d seen him like this before. He didn’t need to tell me, because I already knew something or someone had gotten under his skin today.

He winced, a nearly imperceptible response. “I’ll be better in a minute.”

Knowing what could get him there, I pulled off my blouse and let it drop to the floor.

“Better?” I cocked my head, hoping to draw out the playful lover in him.

His eyes were unchanged, steely as ever. “Don’t make me wait again, Erica.”

His voice was dangerously low. I held my breath, trying in vain to harness control over my own body’s reactions to him. That potent mix of desire and anticipation welled up inside of me. The details of the day blurred into the background, secondary to the here and now and the domineering man who was moments from fucking away his release and using my body so very well to do it.

I lowered my hand to the hard outline of his erection and stroked him through the soft worn fabric of his jeans. “I’m here now. Let me make it up to you.”

He caught my wrist. “You will, trust me.”

I looked up through my eyelashes. He released me and brought his hand to my chest. He traced the lace hem of my bra and the skin beneath. The simple contact warmed me. He pushed the cup of the bra down roughly, palmed my freed breast, and thumbed my nipple. I leaned into the slow circular motions as a flicker of desire took root in my belly.

I moaned, and he pinched tightly. I sucked in a breath through my teeth but didn’t push him away. His lip turned up at the corner and a flash of terrible mischief passed over his eyes.

“Undress and bend over the table.”

Playful had arrived, but so had someone else.

I frowned in the direction of the dining area and the large wooden farmhouse table at the center of it. Before I could argue, he swatted my ass and gave me a gentle shove in that direction. I moved quickly and removed my skirt, bra, and panties. I faced the table, resting my hands on the warm textured wood. On the center of the table, lengths of rope were curled into a pile.

“Down,” he said in a clipped tone.

He placed his hand between my shoulder blades and pressured me lower. I slid my hands out in front of me, exhaling sharply as the front of my body touched the cool table, the tops of my thighs pressed firmly against the edge. The anticipation held me hostage, robbed me of the ability to make sense of anything but the surety that Blake was taking control now.

And I’d given him that.

As soon as I’d walked out of my normal working life and into the apartment we now shared, I went to war with damn near every instinct I had. I handed over all control to the man I loved, trusting that he’d take care of us both. He always did, but sometimes I couldn’t resist the urge to push back just a bit, so he knew I was still there, fighting.

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