He looked toward me then.

“A…gag. She said it used to be yours and hers. Sent it with her best wishes.” I grimaced at the snide tone of her note and how deeply it had hurt me. “She gave me the address of the Perle. It was a complete mindfuck. This whole thing has been. Ever since I overheard your conversation with her that day, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the club and what it means to you.”

“I know,” he said quietly.

I sighed, relieved that he’d at least sensed my struggle if I hadn’t always verbalized it. “I love you, Blake. I want to know everything about you. Even the things you think I don’t want to hear…”

A few empty minutes passed. “Sophia’s a bitch,” he stated matter-of-factly.

I smiled. “That I think we can both agree on.”

He closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. When no words followed, I inched closer. I feathered a touch over his hand. He turned it up and I laced our fingers together. I leaned my head against the back of the couch. “Talk to me.”

He exhaled unsteadily. “I honestly couldn’t tell you what I wanted to happen between us at first. I know I was incredibly attracted you, and yes, I wanted you in my bed. Nothing’s changed there, except now I love you, deeply and beyond all reason. And the person I was back then, at the club, wasn’t capable of loving anyone.”

I tightened my hand in his.

“I love you, more than you’ll ever know, Erica. But under that, I want to make you mine in every way. I’m hard every time I think of you and we’re not together. I think I could live the rest of my life making love to you. I don’t know what it is… Call it chemistry. Call it you being the most frustrating female I’ve ever met. You defy me like it’s your fucking job. It drives me crazy.” He ran a hand through his hair, leaning his head back against the couch. “The twisted thing is I think it turns me on…and getting you to submit to me afterward is turns me on even more.”

I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the way it turned me on too. “Why?”

He lifted his head and looked at me. “I have no idea. It’s a fucking kink. Why do you get impossibly wet when I spank you? Why does your body go soft when I dominate you? We could psychoanalyze it all damn day.”

“But she’s the reason why.”

“She turned me onto it, yes. I won’t deny it. But she took it too far. She wanted me to choke her, mark her. Then the drugs. She was a self-destructive mess, and the way she needed me made me question everything. I need control, Erica. I thrive on it. It’s so deeply embedded in how I live my life now. It puts the world in order for me. And for a long time, after Sophia, I couldn’t imagine bringing someone else into that kind of relationship and have it be a healthy one. Even now, I question everything it’s doing to us.”

He shook his head. “Even knowing your past with Mark, I couldn’t stay away. I tried to be someone different, someone better for you. Then you kept coaxing me back to the person I knew how to be. I’ve been walking this line, trying to be the man you deserve and give you everything you want.”

“You are, Blake, and you do.”

“Yeah, but sometimes things go too far. For all my wanting control, I lose it. Sometimes I can’t turn it off. I wish I could always pick and choose our moments. I know your body and I know what you want. But sometimes I can’t turn off what I used to want, and it scares the hell out of both of us.”

My throat worked on a swallow, thick with emotion. “Blake…”

“I don’t want to hurt you, Erica, but I know I have. You worry that you’re not good enough. You say it sometimes, and I can see it in your eyes. It kills me, because you have no idea how many times those words have echoed inside of me. Because you don’t deserve me dragging you into all this darkness. I don’t have to worry about not being good enough for you, because I already know I'm not.” 

“No.” I stopped him, pressing a finger to his lips. I crawled over him, resting back on his strong thighs. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s true.”

“Stop it. Blake, what happened back there…wasn’t easy for me.”

His eyes dimmed. “I know I pushed you, and I shouldn’t have.”

“I took a risk going there. I know that. But seeing what goes on there, knowing that was a place that brought you solace…” I licked my lips, nervous about what I was about to ask, because I wanted to be what he needed. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be like those girls.”

“You’ll never be like them.”

“But are you going to resent me because I haven’t done those things or maybe never will be able to?”

He winced. “No. Of course not. Baby, of all of my kinks, wanting to do them in front of a bunch of perverts isn’t one of them.”

I laughed, relief filling the place where all my worry had taken up residence this past week.

“I guess I worry about not being as experienced as you want me to be. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t let this go.”

He brushed his knuckle across my cheek. “I want to do everything with you. Seeing your face when I give you a new kind of pleasure is more than half the fun. I’m in no rush to use up my bag of tricks on you and transform you into a connoisseur of kink.”

My hand found the edge of his shirt. I pushed it up, lazily stroking the soft skin of his abdomen.

“You’re the pro.”

He smiled. “I don't think of it like that. But if I am, think of the results as practice for giving you a lifetime of mind-bending sex.”

“Can’t argue with that.”

“I’m glad. We’ve had enough of that for one night.”

I closed my eyes and leaned into his gentle touches. “I shouldn’t have gone there without you.”

“And I should have told you about the club when you asked. I didn’t want to think about that part of my life or the person I used to be.”

“I know how that feels too, but I’ve shown you my past. It hasn’t always been easy or pretty, but I’ve never trusted anyone else with it the way I have with you. No one’s ever been strong enough to handle it without judging me or making everything hurt all over again. You’re strong enough. And so am I. Trust me with it.”

He feathered a touch along my jaw, pushing a damp strand of hair back from my face. “I do trust you,” he murmured.

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