Troubled, maybe, and certainly not always innocent. His history as a hacker wasn’t yet safely in the past, and I wasn’t sure it ever would be. The man had a way of securing information by any means necessary, a talent I’d never quite been able to wrap my head around.

I searched for his eyes in the near darkness, my heart twisting with the knowledge that so much more lay beyond his words and the experiences we’d shared together. I hadn’t mustered up the courage to ask him about the club again, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Maybe he was right. Maybe I should let it go, but a little voice in my head simply wouldn’t.

His brow wrinkled. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I’m just a little worried about the business,” I said quickly, avoiding what was troubling me more. “I’m worried for Daniel a little bit too I guess. When all this goes public, it’s going to affect his campaign. A reporter called me this morning, fishing for information.”

He brushed a strand of hair off my forehead. “We knew it would get out eventually.”

“I know. I just wish all this was behind us. As long as this investigation is open about Mark’s death, I have to live with this lie. I’m scared to death that the police will find out the truth.”

“You should have told them the truth when you had the chance, Erica.”

I closed my eyes, sensing where this was going. “You know why I couldn’t.”

“You want to believe that he’s someone he’s not. That somehow this one act, even though he did it to save his own campaign, redeems him for everything he didn’t do for you, all the things he never gave you.”

A wave of emotion rushed over me, sending tears prickling behind my eyes. Refusing to give in to the feelings I didn’t want to face, I pushed away and tried to face the wall. He turned me back to him quickly.

I opened my mouth to protest but he slanted his lips over mine, silencing me with a slow, commanding kiss. He cupped my cheek while his arm circled me tighter.

I struggled for a breath when he broke the kiss, his eyes dark and intent on me. He traced my lower lip with his thumb. “I’m sorry. I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to forgive Daniel for threatening you and breaking us apart. He and I might always be at odds.”

I relented. His resentment sourced from his love for me. “I understand you have your reasons.”

“For what it’s worth, I hope he doesn’t disappoint you again.” He caressed my cheek and he lowered, pressing another less demanding kiss to my lips. “I love you, Erica. I only want the best for you.”

I closed my eyes. “I know.”

“Enough about Daniel.”

I nodded with a sigh.

“Don’t you want to know what I’ve cooked up for your birthday?” He cocked an eyebrow.

A small smile curved my lips. “Maybe.”

His hands went to my sides, his fingertips wiggling against me. I started laughing, pushing him away to escape.

“You don’t seem that excited,” he teased.

“I am. Stop!” I couldn’t stop laughing as he continued to tickle me. I squirmed until, realizing he was too strong to get away from, I resorted to pinching him.

“Hey!” He flipped me over, caught my hands behind my back, and slapped my ass hard.

I yelped but didn’t try to move again now that the tickling torment had stopped. I lay there, letting the burn settle into my skin under his palm. I bit my lip, well aware of how my giddiness was transforming into desire.

“You haven’t even asked about your presents,” he murmured huskily, sliding his body over mine. Releasing my hands, he caressed up my sides, his erection pressed against my behind.

“You never asked me what I wanted,” I replied with equally dark meaning lacing the words.

He exhaled, slipping his hands into the front of my panties. I lifted my hips up to give him space to touch me.

“I know what you want, Erica. I always know, sometimes better than you do.”

God, did he ever. I fisted my hands into the pillow above my head, wanting to be taken away by my desire. I wanted to disappear into this darkness, the here and now between us. To hell with the world. I gasped when his fingers slid through the damp folds of my pussy, rubbing gently against my swollen clit.

“How about I give you one of your presents early? Would you like that?”

I nodded, unable to speak without moaning loudly.

“I can’t hear you. Say the words.”

His fingers slid into me, reminding me of where I wanted him the most. He withdrew, leaving me empty and wanting. I whimpered, lifting my hips back up against him.

“Erica,” he sang, a dark taunt ringing in my ear.

“Please, Blake.” I struggled to form the words he wanted to hear. By default, I’d resorted to begging.

“Please, what?”

“Please, fuck me. I want my present. Please…”

I lifted my hips, rubbing my ass against him. He cursed and shoved my panties down to my knees. Not bothering to undress either of us completely, he pushed his boxers down just enough. His cock burned hot against my skin. The soft head trailed over my ass and pressed against the opening of my pussy.

“Anything for the birthday girl.” The words strained as he drove home with one powerful thrust.

I clenched my jaw around the wordless cry that wanted to escape from my lips when he was inside me completely. I was tight around him. Relief and the sharp need for more washed over me. His hips pushed me forward and down into the mattress, a cushion as he drove into me. Every stroke of his cock into me caused a delicious tingling, down every limb and pulsing where our bodies met. My clit, deep inside me, those secret places where only he could give me pleasure. My arousal drenched us both, making the journey smooth as his pace increased.

Reality was slipping. A new reality where we were the only two players formed as the chase for orgasm took over. I turned my head to the side, gasping for breath as his passionate fucking robbed me of air.

I whimpered as our warm, slick bodies slid over one another. God, this man could do things to me. He pulled out and turned me over, nudging between my legs. He leaned down, catching my lips in his. He sucked them into his mouth, devouring the swollen flesh with lusty swipes of his velvet tongue.

Then lifting my thigh around his waist, he was inside me again in seconds. Going deeper, thrusting harder and faster, he took me to the edge. I ran out of air, gasping, spasming around him, racked with overwhelming pleasure. He caught my cries with one last kiss as he finished. His release burst inside me in rhythmic pulsing thrusts. We shared breath, collapsing together into the soft net of our bed.