“Unearthing them can be, at times, somewhat…violent.” He trailed the tip of his nail down my forearm, with enough pressure to put me on edge but not enough to cause pain. 

I shivered again, straining away from his touch. Squeezing my eyes closed, I forced myself to stay calm. But I was struggling for air, scrambling for any semblance of comfort in this dark place. I needed to get out of here…soon. I needed to get away from this man. Where on God’s earth was Blake?

Remy seemed to read my thoughts and faced the bar, shifting his focus from my body to the snifter that had been set in front of him.

“Merde, where is your man?”

I had no idea, but I now cursed myself for texting him too late. Remy’s patience was waning with mine, and he didn’t seem like a man who deprived himself of many pleasures.

“Tell me about the other women.” Blake would be here soon. God, I hoped he would be. But in the meantime, I wanted to know as much as this dangerous and magnetic man would share.

Remy sipped his drink and sighed. “Blake and I are…well, we are not friends per se, but he is a paying member. I would hardly betray his trust. His proclivities are his to tell. I’m sure he will tell you what you truly need to know.” His attention diverted from me, a regretful smile set on his refined features. “Or perhaps he will show you. Here he comes. Finally.”

I swiveled in my chair, eyes wide, heart flying. Blake was walking toward us in determined strides. His gaze was steady on me, his jaw set tight, as tight as his fists at his sides.

Remy leaned in, his breath again at my ear. “If you came here to learn, I’d say punishment might be your first lesson tonight.”

My whole body tensed at Remy’s proximity and the vision of Blake closing in on us. “I’ve learned that lesson already,” I replied weakly.

Remy laughed. “Have you?”

Before I could explain myself, Blake caught my hand and pulled me off the stool. I struggled to my feet, holding onto him for balance. He positioned his body in front of mine a fraction. Instinctively, I turned toward him, my chest against his arm. I knew he was angry with me, but I also knew he wanted to protect me. And right now, I felt an overwhelming and very present need to be protected.

“Landon.” Remy straightened as if to shake Blake’s hand.

“Stay away from her.”

Remy lifted his hands in supposed surrender, leaning casually back against the bar. “No need to be protective.”

“No?” Blake shot back. “Since when does that ever happen around here?”

“I was simply keeping the vultures at bay. It was very brave of you to let such a beautiful creature out of your sight. She wandered in here like a lost kitten.” He smiled affectionately, his gaze sliding over me as shamelessly as it had before.

Blake tightened his grip, and I sighed, my entire being relieved to have him near, no matter how angry he was. The way I clung to him now left no doubt that I was his and only his. I chanced a look into his eyes. He cast me an emotionless look. I weakened against him, apologizing without words.

“She escaped,” he said in a low tone.

“Ah. I see.” Remy smiled again. “Seems unlike you to tolerate such disobedience. She’s new to all this, no?”

I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. Perhaps Remy did keep his women in cages, and between the two of them this all made sense. First I was a slave, and now I was a runaway.

“She’s none of your concern, Remy.” He turned to me. “Let’s go. Now.”

“No.” I tightened my grip on his hand and pulled him back.

His eyes were wild with frustration now, the calm mask gone. “No?”

“I want to stay.”

“Let her stay, Landon,” Remy chimed in. “Perhaps she will learn something. You know as well as I do, sometimes they need to learn the lessons the hard way. This kitten has sharp claws. She needs training.”

Blake shoved a hand through his hair, his gaze passing over the rest of the club. He murmured a string of curses under his breath.

“There’s a little booth there waiting for you. Have a drink. Enjoy the show. And each other, of course.” Drink in hand, Remy stepped away. Crossing the room, he settled into an unoccupied plush red chair guarded by a petite, half-naked girl kneeling at its base.

“This is where you want to be?”

I opened my mouth to speak, searching for the words. The truth. All I wanted was the truth.

“Do you have any idea how fucking stupid it was for you to come here alone?”

“I’m fine,” I insisted, though my body was still riddled with anxiety over the past several minutes here without him.

“This isn’t a martini bar, Erica. You walked through these doors and into a world you know nothing about.”

“I want to know about it,” I said quietly, suddenly embarrassed.

“You don’t.”

I pulled my hand from his grasp, only to have him band a protective arm around my waist.

“If it’s kink you’re after, we can go home right now, and I’d be more than happy to get creative. Needless to say, punishment is in order.” He paused, his anger seeming to fade somewhat. “This is not the place for you.” 

My palm found his chest, and I let my forehead fall to his shoulder. His heart beat rapidly beneath his shirt. I breathed in his scent. A familiar scent, bringing me back to what I knew, back to us. “Tell me what this place means to you,” I pleaded softly.

He sighed, clutching me tighter. “Beyond wanting to get you the hell out of here, it means nothing.”

I looked up, determined to hear the truth from him. “That’s not true. If it were, why would Sophia want to send me here?”

He gritted his teeth, his arm flexing around my waist. “Goddamnit.”

“You came here together.” I wasn’t asking, but I decided to start with getting him to admit to the obvious.

“Yes, we came here together. Is that what you wanted to know, or is there more? Maybe we can continue the interrogation at home, without all the prying eyes.” The words lashed out at me.

He was furious. I knew he had a right to be, but I couldn’t stop.

“I want to know you.” I fought the urge to cry. I hated Sophia and every vision my imagination had created of Blake loving her. I despised the fact that she’d had a part of him that I might never know. I pressed my body along his, my cheek against his chest. “I want to know what and who drew you here for so long. I’m one of two relationships you’ve had in a decade, and this place filled up too many of the nights in between.” I took his silence as consideration and it gave me hope. “Don’t I have the right to know? All I want is the truth,” I whispered.

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