“I’m still upset with you.”

“So you decided to tie me up while I was sleeping?” The question almost sounded innocent.

I winced. “You were half awake, Blake. Not to mention you’re twice my size and you snapped the cuffs like a piece of twine. You’re acting like I handcuffed you and tortured you.”

“Is that what I should expect next time?”

I rolled my eyes and stabbed a piece of my fruit. I chewed in silence a moment. “It didn’t occur to me that you had…limits.”

His jaw ticked. “It didn’t occur to me, either.”

“I don’t know the rules of this game, Blake. You refuse to talk to me about it.”

He laughed roughly. “Is this about the club?”

I answered with my eyes, hoping he’d open up to me about it. “Why won’t you talk about it?”

His lips went thin. “Enough about the club! I don’t need a label between us to know I want to control your pleasure. And I don’t need a fucking safeword.”

His anger shot off the walls of the room until there was only silence again. He walked toward me, his palms curling over the edge of the counter near where I sat. I’d rattled him. My playing, which had been innocent enough, had shaken him deeper than I ever imagined. I was playing a game I knew nothing about.

He leaned in and kissed my cheek. I sighed, relieved to sense him softening toward me.

“But you do,” he whispered, setting off a new ripple of anticipation. “Because I’m going to push you past every boundary. I’m going to fuck you every way a woman can be fucked.”

I closed my eyes at his dark promise.  “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize—”

“You didn’t realize that someone like me doesn’t want to be tied up.”

“You do it to me all the time,” I shot, tears stinging my eyes.

“Did it feel better to pretend that I’m someone I’m not?” His voice was gentler.

I shook my head, regretting all of it. My little foray into dominance was backfiring in a big way. I wasn’t satisfied at all. We were both hurt and off balance.

“No.” I shoved off from the counter and left for work without him before I broke down.

I was tired and confused, and for once, I longed for the stability of work, the familiarity of the office and the people who filled it.

Clay played defense when another reporter was waiting for me outside the office.

Great. That was all I needed.

Now that the reporters were showing up at work, the thought occurred to me that negative press probably wasn’t what Alex wanted either. Maybe fast-tracking was good, because once Alex knew I was potentially linked with the investigation surrounding Daniel, maybe he’d want to distance himself from us. I pushed the thought away and went through my morning routine at the office.

About an hour later, I heard the office door open and Alli speaking with someone. A few seconds later she was at my desk with a small red box that rested in her hands.

“What’s this?”

“I don’t know. A courier just dropped it off.” She set it in front of me on the center of my desk. The box was covered with velvet and tied with a black satin bow. If it was from Blake, I could only imagine its contents.

“No sender?” I asked.

“I didn’t ask, but I’d be willing to bet it’s from Blake.” She shot me a mischievous smile.

I returned a weak one. Was he sorry? The way I’d left this morning had not been good. He hadn’t cooled off from the night before, so I couldn’t imagine he’d experienced a dramatic change of heart in the few hours since I’d left him standing there in the kitchen.

“Okay, thanks.”

I slowly untied the bow. I lifted the lid, revealing bunches of thick black tissue paper. I pushed through it until my fingers met a texture I recognized. Leather. And then something cool. Metal studs. I stared into the box, my heart thundering. It was a ball gag. A flash of red beneath the leather straps caught my eye. I pushed the gag to the side and retrieved a tiny card.


I regret that I’ll be missing your nuptials, but I would be remiss if I didn’t send a gift to mark this joyous occasion in your lives. Here’s a little memento from our adventures at the club. Maybe you two can carry on the tradition. 

All the best,


The handwriting was feminine but jagged, the S looping over the other letters. My hands trembled and I dropped the note. The gag sat inside the box and my stomach rolled. The mere sight of it sent my adrenaline rocketing out of control. Knowing that Blake had used the thing on Sophia was making me physically ill. I wanted to throw it into the trash, but instead I sat frozen, studying the box quietly. The device didn’t look old, but it wasn’t new. The leather was worn slightly where the hook met the belt hole. My imagination flooded with terrible unwelcome images of them together. Her bound, him seeking his pleasure from her submission the way he had with me so many times.

My eyes burned, and my lips quivered beyond my control. I grabbed the card and crushed it in my palm. Doing so did nothing to relieve the pressure that built inside my chest. I closed my eyes, and in my mind, I screamed every vile name I could think of.

Sophia had hit her mark, and what perfect timing too, after the night we’d had. I was reeling. Releasing the card, I noticed more writing on the back. I straightened the thick crumpled paper and blinked, clearing my vision to read the small text printed on the back.

La Perle, 990 North Hampton Street, Boston, MA

Everything went still. Reading the words seemed to open a valve in my chest. I could breathe again, but it still hurt. Sophia was taunting me, in more ways than one. If the contents of this box were the problem, maybe this hint, however unwelcome, was the answer.

For the rest of the morning, my mind was a war zone. If Sophia had wanted to send me over the edge with imagined memories of Blake fucking her, she’d done a great job. My appetite non-existent, I worked through lunch in a near manic state. I forced my thoughts away from the package that had finally found a home in the trash receptacle beside my desk, but I was consumed by only one thing. I searched the name and address of the club online, finding nothing of interest or anything to indicate what kind of place it was. It was as if the place didn’t even exist, save the little red pin that showed its location on the map.

The clock hit three, and I Skyped Alli, nervous energy pulsing through my veins as I did. What the hell was I doing?

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