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Dominating Amy

by

Emily Ryan-Davis

Copyright 2007 by Emily RyanDavis. All rights reserved.

Smashwords Edition

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DRAGONS WOMANA paranormal romance bundled edition of MATING CALL, DRAGON DANCE and DRAGON BOUND

CHARLOTTES YOUNGER MANPast lives erotic romance

Chapter One
Not to absolve you of responsibilityyou did choose of your own free will, cocktails asidebut hes half doing this to himself. Youre not helping matters by withdrawing and lying, but hes not helping by letting you get away with it. If you were my submissive, Id beat your ass. Somewhere in the restaurant, wine glasses clinked together as punctuation. As an afterthought, she added, If you stop being a coward and talk to him, you might still get the whipping you deserve. Amy Corcoran, spaghetti noodles twirled around her fork and poised on the brink of a bite, gaped at her dinner companion. The tall, polished woman sitting opposite her arched her eyebrows. What? Dishonesty by omission is still dishonesty. You lied. Youre still lying, and youre both miserable because of it. The role of a dominant lover might be easy for some men but the role of a dominant partner isnt something most men are encouraged to assume anymore. Mac was raised in the twentieth century. Its not going to naturally occur to him that you want to submit. If you want

him to take control, you have to tell him. And tell him the truth. Give him a seed to nurture and grow. The truth. A slender red candle stood between them. Its flame danced a slow waltz, each dip marking off the seconds that slipped away while Amy scrambled for a response. Neither her brain nor her lungs cooperated--one failed to think, the other to process oxygen. She lowered her fork to the plate to buy time. A slow count to ten helped her fight off a panic attack. He doesnt believe in submission, she finally said, sucking breath through her nostrils, slowly and deliberately. She despised the wimpy, weak quality of her voice. Elizabeth Very, Amys closest friend and an unashamed dominatrix, pointed a stick of soft, warm bread at her. Dont get that look on your face. What look? The one you get when youve made up your mind about something and youre determined not to be influenced. I cant tell him. Stomach tight, Amy pushed her plate away. Anxiety and tomato acid met together in battle and she couldnt eat anymore. She and her husband were already estranged. Their marriage wouldnt survive the addition of

moral and religious convictions to their existing problems. Elizabeth didnt understand -- her lovers were casual events, impromptu birthday parties, whereas Mac was Amys debutante ball -- planned for and once-in-a-lifetime. Amy. Hiding yourself is what brought you to this point. If youd said something to Maceven if youd said something to methat scene wouldnt have gone as far as it did. You wouldve known how to protect yourself. He would have known how to protect you. I cant, she repeated. Her throat shrank and she focused on breathing, made more difficult by Elizabeths reminder of her mistake. She hadnt brought her asthma inhaler. Elizabeths gaze burned into her forehead. Amy couldnt meet her friends eyes. She stared at the wound-up noodles, glistening with tomato and olive oil, and imagined her life like that, all wrapped up around Mac, at risk of coming undone if tilted at the wrong angle. Do you love him? Elizabeth pressed. Do you want to be with him? Amy nodded. Want him to stop sleeping on the couch? Failure threatened to suffocate her. Elizabeth emptied

their shared bottle of cabernet into Amys glass. Drink that, she instructed. You look like youre going to pass out. The maitred is giving us concerned glances. The first gulp of wine stung her throat, raw from fighting sobs. She slowed to steady sips and set a rhythm -- sip, breathe, sip, breathe. Gradually the glass emptied. Alcohol warmed her ears. Elizabeth motioned for another bottle of wine. He loves you, she said. From what youve told me, he probably feels like youre shutting him out. You know him he doesnt force himself anywhere. Hes giving you the space he thinks you want. I dont feel well. Amy lowered the empty glass to the table. Her hand shook. I just have to get over this. That feeling is awareness that youre being a coward. Its self-shame. Its not going to win you a go home sick note. And we both know youve been trying to get over it for three years. Dont you think you wouldve worked through your submissive urges by now if they were something you could get over? Three years of yearning--fantasizing about Mac accepting her surrender, wanting all of her. She stared at her plate.

What am I supposed to do? Tell him you want to give him control. You need his strength to support you. The waiter arrived with a new bottle of wine. Elizabeth paused, waiting for him to clear away the empty bottle. Tell him the same thing youve told me. You dont understand! We almost didnt get married because of this. He asked our officiant to change the ceremony, getting rid of submission and obedience. The reverend refused. He called off the wedding until his mother promised him a civil ceremony wouldnt disgrace him. Amy poured another glass of cabernet, downed it in two swallows, and said, He didnt even want me to give myself to him in the ceremonial sense. He certainly wont put a collar on me and let me call him sir. Elizabeth snorted. You know the submissive/dominant relationship is more than that. I do, but Mac doesnt. He is equality through and through. Equal obligations, equal responsibilitieseven equal turns for being on top. Shed asked her husband, once, if hed tie her up while they made love and hed withdrawn completely. They hadnt been intimate for three weeks

afterward. I just need to learn to deal with it on my own, she said, dejected. Or you could be honest with him. Honest. Ive already explained about the shibari demonstration at your party. I dont think he cares about the physical aspect of that, Amy. You were fully clothed and had a chaperone of fifty people. He doesnt think you slept with some other man. Its not the external that matters, its what happened inside. Hes not stupid. He knows I didnt call him to take you home because youd had too much to drink. You have to tell him whats going on in your head. Hell leave, she said miserably. Hes on the verge of leaving now. Impatience sharpened Elizabeths tone. Amy winced. There must be a way to let him know without confronting him. Writing a letter seems weak. In this situation, it is weak. I dont want to trick him. Trickery and deceitmore deceit--would sever the fragile bond they still shared. Elizabeths smile caught Amys attention. She narrowed her eyes. What are you thinking?

Seduction isnt trickery. Figure out a way to introduce him to what youd like, using your physical relationship as a doorway to your emotional relationship. I dont want kinky sex, Amy whispered, glancing to her left to make sure the nearest dining couple wasnt listening. She hesitated, and added, Not just that. Besides, we dont even have a physical relationship right now. I know. My point is that some people are more comfortable with physical stimulus than verbal, emotional, or mental stimulus. Maybe Mac isnt thrilled with the idea of discussing your submission. That doesnt mean he cant be excited by it. Introduce him to it by touch, and investigate the possibilities later, if hes more agreeable. Should I use some sort of toy? Amy ventured, uncertain. I dont even have a vibrator. Elizabeth eyed her askance. Youre thirty-two years old. Youve been having sex with the same man far too long. She blushed. Sixteen years had passed since the first time she and Mac were together, on her parents living room couch while they were away for a wedding. Theyd both been teenagers. Sex had been the same ever sinceintense, hot, and fantasticbut not adventurous at all.

Adventurous didnt matter -- until Amy took a lastminute modeling job for an erotic art photographer three years earlier. She didnt blame the photographer for changing her. He didnt come on to her or do anything besides give instructions and praise. Somehow, during the session, however, shed transposed Mac over the stranger and it became him she posed for, him who complimented her ease with taking orders and knowing exactly what he wanted. Mac continued to feature in her fantasies. Even though she cast herself in the submissive role, she didnt supplant Mac with another man. He was the only one she wanted. It killed her to know he didnt want her in return. **** Mac worked the nightshift and hadnt come home by the time Amy left their apartment the next morning. Shed hoped to see him on his way in, but work called her out too early. It also presented her with an idea that wouldnt leave her be. Probably a bad idea but lately she had difficulty distinguishing between bright and stupid. The rift with Mac affected everything about her, including her ability to

confidently make decisions. As she sat in her car, waiting for it to warm up, she dialed her husbands dispatcher. Mac worked for a corporate systems support firm that ensured round-the-clock tech support, and she had to reach him through the office if she wanted to maintain the anonymity necessary to carry off her plan. A womans cheerful voice came on the line and asked her to hold. Amy pushed her glasses up into her hair, lifting the newly dyed magenta strands from her face. She angled the rearview mirror to examine herself critically. Shed been working as a catalogue ad model for a decade. Eleven hours a week at the gym meant she wasnt limited to hand cream ads like some of the other women represented by her agency but didnt mean she had first pick of the choice assignments. Earlier life decisions, like the tramp stamp at the base of her spine and the ink of Macs name on her ankle, surrounded by hearts and flower doodles, limited her desirability. She wasnt a suitable model for the sort of respectable lingerie catalogue her grandmother might buy from but she matched up well with the fetish wear spreads. She bit her lip, rolling the plan over in her mind. Mac

wouldnt be happy to stand by and watch her work but if she didnt tell him, she risked a repeat of the party that had brought things to a head. Maybe she shouldnt take the job. How could she expect to maintain any sort of professionalism now? All itd taken to drop her into sub space at Elizabeths party was a watchful crowd and a stranger with a length of rope. She hadnt even been barefoot, let alone nude. Sick at the idea she was on the verge of making another bad decision, Amy sighed and redirected her train of thought. The temporary dye hadnt stained her scalp pink, fortunately. The mornings photo shoot requirements included magenta hair, not magenta skin, but she hadnt had time to visit a salon. Shed barely had enough time to race to the pharmacy, still in pajamas, to buy the hair color kit after her agents four a.m. phone call. Not that shed been asleep when the call came through. She didnt sleep well at all anymore since Mac had moved to the sofa. Satisfied her skin was the right hue, she dumped the contents of her cosmetics bag on the passenger seat and started the car. Mellow music played in her ear, thankfully unobtrusive, and she applied her makeup while her car warmed up.

The receptionist returned to the phone, chiming a cheerful, Hello, thanks for holding! Whats your account number? Amy almost stabbed herself in the eye with an eyeliner pencil; a navy blue streak jogged down the side of her nose. Her stomach knotted up at the question. Her plan could be dead in the water. She grimaced at her reflection and tossed the pencil aside. I dont have it on me, she bluffed. Im not in the office yet. Ive worked with Mac before. Is he available? One moment please. The receptionist put her back on hold. Amy distracted herself from nervous anxiety by rifling through the assortment of creams, cloths, powders, and brushes on the seat until she found a wet wipe. She carefully cleaned the blue streak from her nose, keeping an eye on the dashboard clock. The receptionist was gone so long she began to wonder whether shed been disconnected. The hold music had cut out ages ago. No, it only seemed like ages ago. Amy had painting her face in the front seat of a car down to a science. She could get from foundation to lip gloss, all layers between included, in seven minutescoincidentally the same amount of time it took the rear and front windows of her car to defrost in the winter.

Hello, miss? I need your account number in order to determine which of our technicians has worked with your company before. Once I have that information, I can send somebody out. Not somebody. Mac. Is he available? Who we send depends upon the nature of the problem, the receptionist said politely. Amy rolled her eyes. Procedure drove her nuts. Look, its very important that I have Mac. Oh, um Another phone line started ringing on the receptionists end. Can you hold again? No. Im running late. Please send him to 1743 Franklin Boulevard, Suite 25-C. Its on the third floor. Can you call back as soon as possible with your account number, Miss? Corcoran. Amy Corcoran. Oh! Are you I really need to go. Please send Mac as soon as possible. Of course, Mrs. Corcoran. Have a good morning! You too. Amy exhaled slowly. She fastened her seatbelt and, moments later, pulled into traffic. She preferred to show

up for photo shoots early, and this morning, shed need the extra time to compose herself. Flustered wasnt a good look on camera. Or in the face of an irate husband.

Chapter Two
Mac Corcoran checked the code on his pager twice, once with disbelief, the second time with resignation. Hed just finished troubleshooting a chain of software problems for a minor celebrity who had decided two a.m. was the perfect time for recording his new album. His ears were still ringing from the clients music--literally. The guy was some kind of character, piping his own tunes into every one of the eleven rooms in his downtown brownstone--and he stank of cigarette smoke. He wanted a shower and a long sleep. The timing for both couldnt be better. His wife left for the gym and, when she had an assignment, work, at six a.m. Her routine left Mac with a quiet house and a warm bed, both empty of the woman he couldnt face. He knew shed lied about having too much to drink at Elizabeths birthday party. Elizabeth didnt serve alcohol because the habits and practices of her social circle could quickly become reckless and dangerous if decision-making skills were impaired. No, wine wasnt to blame for the severity of her reaction to being bound by a guest demonstrating knot techniques. He was. He shouldnt have left her to attend by herself. He shouldve

been there to catch her when she crashed from whatever sensory high shed discovered. Mac had known about her growing interest in Elizabeths lifestyle for years. He should know how to shield her from her vulnerabilities, but instead of learning, hed chosen to turn his head. Fear had driven him to ignore Amys interest but theyd reached a crossroads and Mac had to make a choice. Hed never backed away from hard decisions before but this onehis cowardice left him sleeping on the couch when they happened to both be in at the same time. The bed was a rare luxury. The last-minute assignment that came across his pager blew his sleep plans right out of the water. Mac dialed the dispatch office. Renee, the new receptionist, answered the phone. Im off-shift, Mac barked, rougher than intended. Give the call to one of the guys coming on. The new girl, halfway through her automatic hello-thanksfor-calling greeting, stammered to a stop. She was quiet a full minute before venturing, Mac? Yeah. You just paged me with a new assignment. Im off as of fifteen minutes ago. Im going home. Give it to someone else.

The client requested you. Mac rubbed his jaw, which was scratchy with the beginnings of a beard. Shower, clean clothes, sleep, maybe breakfastthey were all he wanted. That wasnt asking too much, was it? He and his wife werent speaking, and his assignments lately were shit jobs. He deserved a little luxury. He didnt say any of that to Renee, though. Instead, he asked, What are the specifics? Um. She didnt say. Code phrase for the receptionist didnt ask. Mac bit back his irritation. Whos the client? I, uh You did get her name, right? The receptionist who just clocked out took the call and set it up. Renee rushed the words. All I have is an address and a time. Macs jaw clenched. Whens the job? Half an hour from now. He swore. Location? Renee named a site downtown. With the morning commuter traffic in full swing, it would take him the entire thirty to get there. Im going to be late. If she calls back, tell

her Im on the way. And try to get a name, will you? S-sure. Mac disconnected the call and pocketed his cell phone. He needed a cup of coffee, the bigger and blacker, the better. No, he thought, as he navigated commuter traffic and tried to shake off exhaustion. What he needed was his wife, focused on him, wanting him, instead of the man he couldnt bring himself to be. The coffee was a poor substitute. Amy. He closed his eyes and tipped his head back against his seat. To hell with breakfast or sleep. He wanted her beneath him, naked and warm, her nipples hardening for his mouth, her pussy creaming for his fingers. She used to keep herself waxed for him, smooth and slippery for his tongue, but the salon charge wasnt showing up on the bank statement anymore. He didnt care. Hed happily nose past her blonde curls to lick the spot he knew made her shriek and writhe. Except she didnt want that anymore. She wanted damn, if he knew what. Bondage. Pain. Every time he tried to make sense of her new interests, his cock grew heavy and hard so fast he scared himself. Amy in pain shouldnt arouse him. He shouldnt even be able to envision himself standing over her, belt in hand, pink streaks across the backs of her

thighs. Shouldnt, but somehow he did. He wanted to punish her for making herself vulnerable to another man, for losing herself so thoroughly Elizabeth had to call him to explain Amy couldnt drive herself home. Elizabeth didnt pass Amys condition off as a result of wine. Sub-space, shed called it, the glassy shine in Amys dazed eyes. Later, while Amy slept fitfully, Mac Googled the phrase. Hed immediately arranged to switch his work shifts to conflict with hers, knowing hed fucked up, not knowing how to face her. She needed more than he could give.

Chapter Three
Amy had creamy, freckle-free skin. It was perfect for this assignment because it showed every little mark any toy could possibly make. The photographer didnt even have to employ the merchandise very heavily to get the desired effect. Thats what her agent said, anyway. He assured Amy the whole affair, product photography for an adult toys mailorder catalogue, was on the level. She had to sign release paperwork stating she wouldnt sue the distributor for sexual harassment. In turn, the contract promised she wouldnt actually be penetrated or beaten, and any clamps or other potentially bruising items wouldnt be realistically employed. Strictly on the level, Amy told herself as she walked into the studio, which was set up in a leased office space. Framed photographs, all figure work, adorned the beige walls. The receptionist wore a tidy black skirt and blazer. She smiled when Amy checked in and retrieved her paperwork. The professional smile and lack of piercings were a plus. Professional artists who dressed professionally earned points.

Amy checked her wristwatch a dozen times as she filled out the forms. Every time somebody in the corridor walked by, she jerked her head up. Relax, the receptionist said. Amy glanced at the young woman, who smiled and added, Christophe is a great photographer. Very professional. And you look fantastic, just like youre supposed to. Itll be fine. My agent told me I was supposed to bring an assistant, Amy said, a lilt to the last word, making it a question. Im worried hell be late and hold things up. A third person in a session is standard procedure. Somebody has to arrange the props so he can take pictures. Given the subject matter of this spread, weve found most models are more comfortable with their own people. If your assistants late, Ill stand in temporarily. Christophe wants his models to feel safe and secure. Its all fine to acknowledge liability claims on paper, but paper is no substitute for having a physical presence to ensure all dealings remain satisfactory for both the photographer and the model. Ah. Amy didnt have much more to add to that. Thanks. She even managed a smile, however insincere. She honestly wasnt as concerned about the shoot as she was

Macs reaction. She was gambling her entire marriage on an impulsive decision to show him she needed him. To show him how she needed him, in control, pushing her past barriers she hadnt known she wanted to cross when they were newer to their relationship. If her decision backfired, if he was offended she brought him into this situation, if she lost him she didnt know what she would do. Shed never loved anybody else. She always knew Mac was the one, from the day his family moved into the vacancy across the hall from her familys apartment, when she was thirteen and he was fifteen. She fell in love with his sullen mouth and wanted to make an ice pack for the black eye hed earned in an alley brawl with the tougher boys from the complex. Later, shed wanted to comfort him when he fled from his fathers heavy hand and his mothers refusal to say enough. Hed been a damaged boy but had built himself into an unbreakable man with an unbreakable life. What would he want now with a fragile wife? The office door swung open. Amys head jerked up and her heart leapt into her throat. Mac stopped on the threshold. His eyes narrowed on her hair. Confusion, followed by anger, crossed his features. What is this?

Im sorry I trdidnt call you directly, she said in a hurry, self-consciously brushing aside her magenta fringe. I didnt know if you had your phone with you. He glanced at the receptionist, who half-stood to greet him, and withdrew into the corridor. Amy murmured a wordless reassurance to the photographers secretary and followed Mac. She nearly ran into him in the corridor. His proximity fired a bolt of awareness to her pleasure points. She drew a shaky breath, too attuned to the heavy pulse of her sex. The breath didnt help. Suddenly she could smell him, yesterdays aftershave and the scent of his skin, and before she thought to stop herself, she touched him. Macs biceps jumped beneath her fingers. Amy started to pull back but something stopped her and she pressed with her fingernails instead, whispering, Mac. Renee said a client phoned in an emergency. He squinted at the lettering on the nameplate beside the door. It bore the photographers name and profession, nothing else. I called. She inched closer, made contact, her breasts brushing his chest, her sweater and his rumpled Oxford providing a scanty barrier.

You dont need me here. He looked past her head, not even acknowledging her with his eyes, and retreated a step. Amy flinched. Need was the verb that had begun their current estrangement. His tone imitated her own perfectly, just as it had the night of Elizabeths party. Shed wanted Mac to attend with her but he refused to go anywhere near Elizabeths crowd. Hurt and angry, Amy had told him she didnt need him with her, anyway, and gone alone. Mac hadnt looked her in the eye since. That was months ago, and she still didnt know how to take the words back. They were as irrevocable as the avalanche of bad decisions shed made after leaving him home and going by herself. Including this bad decision. He didnt want her. I need an assistant or I cant have the job, Amy whispered, striving to keep the exchange private. She dropped her hand to her side and tried to catch Macs gaze, but he didnt give an inch. Work that out with your agent. The job started five minutes ago. Please stay. Her voice hitched on the last word. She couldnt bring herself to finish it, to add, With me. Instead she said, You have to stay. Amy, Im tired. He rubbed his eyes, which were

bloodshot and moist. Tired tears, she thought, and almost gave in. The strain of the job, of months of working graveyard, marked his rough features with purple shadows and new lines at the corners of his eyes and lips. The rugged quality of his face, the way his jaw showed strength and his brow showed dedication, perfectly fit her definition of beauty. She spent hours, sometimes whole days, with men who met the polished standards of male beauty, but Mac was her David. She knew every inch of his face by touch alone. What is this really about? he asked wearily. You couldve brought anybody else. Amy swallowed. I want to show you things. To show you me. I already know you. No you dont, she whispered. Mac recoiled. He took another step away. Dont do this. The door to the studio opened. Christophe, the photographer, stood in the doorway. Is there a problem? Biting her lip, she watched Mac and prayed he wouldnt leave. Macs eyes were inscrutable, flashing with either anger or pain as he studied her and ignored Christophe. Amy

mouthed, Please. An instant later, Mac set his jaw and moved past the slimmer man into the studio. The photographer raised his brows expectantly at Amy. At a loss, she followed her husband. Tall, spindly lamps, some illuminated and some dimmed, marked different areas of the studio, itself the size of a large corporate office. It could have held a big boardroom table or a few small cubicles. Christophe had divided it into three different sets. He had not, Amy noted, provided even so much as a privacy curtain for disrobing and changing costumes. She briefly considered asking for one. Macs presence suddenly made her feel small and shy. Vulnerable. She chanced a quick check of his face and regretted it. The tendons in his neck strained and his cheeks were pale. He was furious; shed made a stupid, stupid mistake. Her breath shortened and she looked away.

Impervious to the rage heating the space between them, the photographer gestured toward the wardrobe corner. "Amy, let's get started."

The wardrobe was a rolling rack of costumes against the wall opposite the windows. The rack tempted her to run and hide behind it. She could move it a little, use it as a makeshift privacy wall and hide from Macs glare. Not that she would have privacy once she left the safety of the wardrobe. The straps and buckles, stockings and cupless bras that peeked from amidst an array of role-play costumes exposed rather than concealed. Amy eyed the assortment of fetish wear, trying and failing to picture herself in even the tamest French maid get-up. Maybe if she found something modest, Mac would calm down a little. God, this was such a mistake. Any minute now, Mac would walk out and shed get home to find him gone forever. Maybe she should call it off, run out to the office and tear up the release

paperwork, call her agent and cancel the job. Gripping the top edge of a straight back chair upon which the photographer or his assistant had dropped a short dressing gown for her comfort, she willed her knees to stop shaking. Shed had to remove her wedding ring for the pictures, but the white band around her finger reminded her well enough where her priorities lay. She couldnt back out. This was the only way she knew to show Mac what she wanted. If she called it off now, she wouldnt have another chance. She dug deep for strength and headed for the costume rack. Mac moved into the opposite corner of the studio. She positioned the rack at an angle and edged behind it to unbutton her sweater. The short rack left her shoulders and upper chest visible over the hanger hooks and she could see Mac clearly

over the walls of the cubicle dividers. He stared at her, lips drawn in a tight line. Startled by the direct eye contact, she looked away. The first costume she grabbed was a shimmery mermaid thing. She flipped it over her head and emerged a moment later in a shell bra and an iridescent skirt that didnt reach her thighs. "Which set?" She directed the question to Christophe, who was sorting through camera lenses. He lifted his head and frowned. "Costumes are for another shoot. I need you to work with accessories today. Start with the strap-on harnesses." Heat suffused her cheeks. This was hell, and she'd chosen it for herself with a ridiculous scheme to win back her husband by appealing to his libido and macho sensibilities instead of just talking to him. Disgusted with herself and

avoiding Mac's gaze, she yanked the little green and pink costume over her head, and snatched up a tangle of black leather and steel buckles. A heavy pink dildo, obscenely long and designed specifically for wearing with a harness, dangled from the crotch ring. Amy hid behind the costume rack. Buckles and grommets clinked against one another. Her untrained hands made a mess of the interconnected bits of leather. Whole minutes ticked away. The photographer flashed light from different angles, preparing his set. She caught him darting an impatient glance in her direction and frustrated tears pricked the backs of her eyelids. Stupid and impossible, she mumbled beneath her breath, struggling to disengage her wrist from the snaky leather. Hold still. Mac, suddenly standing at her

elbow, took over. He pulled the harness from her hands and deftly shook it into submission. Step in, he instructed, bending and holding it low so she could slip her feet through the loops. She hesitated. He had lowered his head and angled his face away from her. She couldnt even see the set of his mouth. His tone was too neutral, too flat, for her to pull any meaning from it. Hed made himself deliberately unreadable. You dont have to stay, she whispered. Mac tensed. Yes, I do. Step in. A growl lurked beneath his even words. Amy clutched the shoulder of his jacket and stepped into the leather circles he held stretched between his hands. He pulled the harness up roughly, adjusted the length of the leg straps and tightened the waist buckle to fit around her hips. Cold metal nestled below her navel.

Fix this. Mac tapped the bulbous head of the dildo that jutted away from her abdomen. She gripped his shoulder harder but he shrugged free and retreated to a corner of the conference room turned studio. Clumsily, she fumbled the latex phallus into place. The rubber-spongy texture made her skin crawl. Her stomach rebelled at the unfamiliar girth of the synthetic shaft. Shed never wrapped her hand around a penis, fake or otherwise, that didnt belong to Mac. The flat butt of the dildo pressed against the narrow strip of blonde hair curling between her thighs, snagging and pulling every time she moved. She tried not to wince as she approached the photographer, dildo and breasts bobbing every step of the way. Mortification set her chest and face on fire.

Christophe examined her with a critical eye, made notes on a yellow legal pad, and went to set up the camera in the station nearest Mac. "Kneel on that table, on your hands and knees, facing away from the camera," he directed. Blood pounded sluggishly between Amy's ears. She always thought the metaphor of moving through molasses was a hillbilly grandma saying, but she suddenly knew how appropriate it could be, even in her urban environment. She placed one foot in front of the other until she reached a table draped with midnight blue sheeting. Macs gaze seared her skin, driving hot pinpricks of awareness into every muscle, from her shoulders to her calves. She didn't know how to mount the table gracefully, given Christophe's failure to provide a step for her benefit. The table hit her at waist

height, forcing her to hike herself up until she could catch the surface with her knee. The bulbed end of the strap-on smacked the edge of the table. The impact knocked the synthetic shaft askew. She had to readjust it. Put your feet together but keep your knees apart. The photographer came close to place a prop between her feet. Amy glanced down between her thighs, past the strap-on, and frowned at the long-stemmed pink rose nestled against her ankles. That wasnt right. The air conditioner blew cold air through a vent directly above her. She swore she could hear Mac breathing. His breathing was one of her favorite sounds, whether he was asleep, or finishing a workout, or in the midst of sex. Especially during sex. The way he inhaled and inhaled and inhaled, short little pulls of oxygen all

in a row without breathing out, always signaled his approaching climax. She listened hard, craving the sound, and shivered as he inhaled. Was he still angry? That little edge of growl that kept his voice from being completely flat gave her some small bit of hope she might survive this display. She wanted to look at him. She could casually flip her hair out of her eyes and sneak a glance, attempt to gauge the expression on his face. Fear kept her from doing it. Shed find out what he thought later, after the photo shoot was finished, when she didnt need to focus on retaining her composure. Bad enough that she was certain Christophe had noticed her scent, as nervous anxiety and embarrassed arousal battled for dominance of her bodys responses.

Chapter Four
Mac spent too much of his life looking at his wife, wanting her, loving and sometimes hating her, but not knowing how to touch her since shed changed. Really touch her, inside, make her open her eyes and see him. Amy existed in a fog he couldnt penetrate, turned in on herself, searching for something he hadnt been giving her. He was tired of fighting it. He should stop hedging and get the divorce papers together, but every time he tried to imagine life without her, his system locked up. Christ. How would he manage? Shed been his crutch before later becoming his reason. Losing any more of her than he already had would ruin him. He knew what she needed him to do. The meaning behind the array of props

spread across the different photo sets had slapped him in the face the moment he entered the studio. The curling tongue of a riding crop wouldnt be employed on a horse. Fear surged through him at the sight of the instrument. Only an instinct to protect Amy kept him from bolting. Once the first wave of fear passed, and he forcibly shoved aside the sickening memories of his parents relationship, Amy drew him in. She was afraid of something but she was turned on, too. He knew her body well enough to recognize the flush of arousal staining the pale skin above her breasts. Kneeling at her feet to help with the strap-on harness, hed smelled her. If theyd been alone, he would have dragged her to the floor and buried himself deep. Out in the corridor, only his anger at her trickery had kept him from hauling her into the nearest restroom.

Amy had touched him. His skin still stung from the pressure of her fingernails through his shirt. Scowling, he worked at ignoring the familiar stiffening she cajoled from his dick. He didnt want to be aroused by the picture of her submission. The photographer afforded him a focus. His hands balled into fists of their own accord, craving permission to break the photographers pompous nose. Prior to the night of Elizabeths party, Mac hadnt been a jealous man. He was comfortable with the knowledge his wife sometimes worked nude. A camera wasnt the same as a pair of hands. Everything changed that night, though -- Amy let another man arouse her. Even if it wasnt her intent to become stimulated, even if the physical was theoretically innocent, shed surrendered on the inside. The only thing

that kept him from going after the guy was Elizabeths delivery of his written apology. The guy claimed hed only approached Amy because she wasnt collared by someone else. Bastard. As far as apologies went, it wasnt much, but after learning what collared meant, Mac figured he shared some of the blame. This prick, though the photographerthe pretty man hadnt earned the privilege of Amy and he didnt have the excuse of a confusing social situation. Mac concentrated on his rage instead of the more visceral urge to dominate his wife, and fantasized about plowing the other mans face with his fists. The photographer snapped several photos of her ass, her cheeks parted just enough that the tight pink pucker was visible, along with the clipped blonde down furring her lips, themselves spread wide by that ridiculous strap-on. The

black leather harness wound around her hips and between her thighs framed the display like a picture frame. Even across the distance of the room, Mac could smell as well as see her bodys reaction, rosy pussy wet and glistening. He couldnt tell whether it was a result of conscious arousal or Pavlovian response. The uncertainty pissed him off. What did she want? As he drew in his fill of her lush scent, his nipples drew tight and the nature of her arousal ceased to matter. His gaze drifted out of a sense of selfpreservation, and he searched for something else upon which to focus. He would control himself. Lift your hips and lower your shoulders. The instruction drew Macs attention back, away from a neutral spot on the wall where the paint had chipped away. Amys shoulders tensed as she repositioned her body. Christophe

directed her to lift her shoulders higherhe wanted to get her nipples in the photo. Her knees were too close together. She needed to bring her feet up, hold the rose between her feet but lift them off the table. Amy obeyed every instruction, adjusting her pose to accommodate Christophes desires. She may as well have been a puppet. Even though hed long ago accepted her willingness to display her body, she confused Mac because she was usually so modest in every other situation in life. Even with him, she requested low lights, wore lingerie to bed, and managed to hold on to at least one article of clothing in the most intimate of engagements. He didnt know what was worse--that another man manipulated his wife or that she wordlessly obeyed. Hed never asked anything like this from

herdidnt need kinky sex, racy poses, or dirty language. She was enough for him in and of herself. She rested her cheek on her forearm, facing him. Hed never seen her eyes so dark before, soft and languid and sultry. Begging for his attention. For his approval. Youre too wet, Christophe abruptly announced. He threw a rough rag at Mac. Wipe her with that. Amys thighs clenched. She turned her head until her hair hung in her face. Mac couldnt tell whether her expression changed at all, but he was humiliated and angry on her behalf. And he hated that damned pink rose propped between her little feet, thorns dangerously close to pricking the tender skin. White roses were her roses. He had never given her any other color, and he

wanted to jam that pink one up the photographers ass. Instead, he strangled the rag hed been given and moved behind Amy, blocking her from Christophes view. Are we here because this is an assignment you want, or because youre trying to talk to me? He spread his fingers across the small of her back, directly over the tattoo shed gotten as a gift for his twenty-fifth birthday. Mac remembered the sex that night, Amy pulling off her panties but keeping her camisole, proudly presenting her new ink and inviting him to fuck her from behind. Sometimes she had a dirty little mouth. The sight of the mark never failed to make him want to bury himself balls-deep and ride her hard. He tried to pull back on the urge. This close, her fragrance drugged him. Something

stronger than gravity tried to drag him to his knees, to bring him to a level more conducive to planting his face between her thighs and licking until his tongue wore raw. Quickly! The photographer heaved a disgusted sigh behind Mac and swore beneath his breath. Well never make deadline, he muttered. Amy didnt respond to him or the photographer. Chest tight, Mac wrapped her bright pink hair around his fist and tugged. Amy, answer me.

Chapter Five
He stood behind her, unseen but undeniably present. Finally. Right where she wanted him, in control and enjoying her display. Another man directed her movements but she was for Mac. She bowed her back, presenting for his examination, craving the rough murmur of his approval. Thrill shivered down the back of her neck when he pulled her hair. Macs voice reached down deep into the warm pool of fantasy that bound her. His voice broke the promise of the dark and offered something new, if only she could claw her way free and grab it. Somewhere, an unfamiliar person asked, Amy, what is this? Back off. That was Mac. Shes sick.

His gruff tone alarmed her. She wanted him tender and attentive, not angry, but the gentling filter of fantasy unraveled faster than she could wind it back up. She surfaced through layers of sensation. Numbness pricked her shins. The stillunfamiliar weight of the harness she wore skewed her balance. She drew her knees together, closer to her chest, and something sharp stabbed her ankle. Big, warm hands cupped her shoulders and drew her upright. A heavy weight draped across her back. Mac? She blinked at the expanse of wrinkled fabric, the single row of buttons that marched down the broad chest that blocked her view of the room. Im taking you home, he said. He fumbled with the buckle of her harness. Her hips shifted toward him of their own volition, responding to

her sensitive, aroused bodys needful cravings for his touch. Macs fingers grazed her swollen labia. Amys breath caught. She arched into the touch, her eyes closing, and tried to sink back into the fantasy of his hands on her body. What are you doing? the other voice in the room asked. His irritation stung her ears, dragged at her resisting awareness. Were not finished! Yes, you are, Mac said. Find someone else. A door opened and slammed shut. Amy jumped. I love you, she murmured. She pressed her forehead to Macs chest. I do. You need to get dressed. Macs voice, low and rough, made her shiver and tremble all at once. Her head wasnt where it should be; she couldnt quite focus properly. He moved away,

but came back moments later and dressed her. She tried to help but her arms and legs refused to cooperate. Mac pushed her feet into her shoes and pulled her up and out of the studio. The timing didnt seem right. She couldnt remember most of the job, didnt remember it ending at all, had no idea whether it was a success or a failure. Her recollection didnt improve as they walked but reality intruded relentlessly. She and Mac, separated by her screwed up head. Shame joined arousal, and together, they drummed a rhythm she couldnt break, an over-and-over again cycle that held tight and wouldnt let her go. Im sorry, she murmured. His grip on her biceps tightened and relaxed, but he didnt say anything. The high-rise office buildings lobby was

deserted. Rain sluiced down the big windows that formed the front. She balked. I didnt bring an umbrella. Shedding his coat, he draped it over her head and around her shoulders and guided her into the deluge. Youll get sick. Wet, icy fingers snuck beneath the makeshift umbrella, stinging her cheeks. Mac ignored her protest and hurried her to the parking garage half a block down the street. They ducked out of the rain and he escorted her to his car, guiding her into the passenger seat. Water dripped from his nose, splashing on her lips. Well get your car later. Amy licked her lips dry and worried her thumbnail. He let himself behind the wheel. Now that his focus had been redirected and wasnt

aimed entirely at her, her head started to clear. The rain had also helped, rinsing her clean mentally, even as it destroyed her makeup. His shirt was soaked through. Wet and transparent, it clung to his skin. She wanted to touch himevery cell ached for some contact, something to bring her away from the edge of shattering. Bringing him into the studio was a tremendous mistake. Mac as an audience was supposed to arouse him, not open a floodgate of raw desire in herself. Being watched by him, thoughthe instant she recognized the outline of his erection, she lost herself. He wanted her. He turned on the radio. The public radio newscasters world news commentary filled the void between them. She wet her lips. Mac? For a moment, he didnt answer. Amy glanced sidelong to find him watching her. When their

eyes met, he grunted. What? Youre hard. Not anymore, Im not. That was a lie. She could see the outline of his erection, thick behind his zipper. Heart thudding against her ribs, she said, I want toum Mac? What? He lashed out and grabbed a fistful of her damp hair, pulling hard enough to sting as he forced her eyes to his. You want what, Amy? Me to drag you over here and push your mouth down on my cock? Me to hold your hair and force you to take every last fucking inch? Because thats what I want to do right now and its not fucking right. Yes! I want you to do that. Amy scrabbled for her seatbelt, trying to free herself. Every nerve in her body sparked and strained for him. Mac,

please. Damn it. Amy. Fuck. His grip on her hair tightened. The seatbelt retracted with a hiss and a thud and Mac yanked her across the space between the seats. She squeezed onto the floorboard on her knees, thighs pressed together against the throbbing ache of arousal. With his free hand, Mac tore open his pants and palmed his cock. Amy was waiting for him, her lips parted and eager. The familiar flavor of his precum exploded on her taste buds. She wedged her shoulder beneath the steering wheel and Mac thrust up into her mouth, brutal and unapologetic. Amy didnt have time to linger over remembering his shape. The flared head thumped the back of her throat. She inhaled through her nose and wrapped her hand around his wrist, steadying herself as he used her hair to drag her lips up and

down the length of his shaft. Mac changed the height of the steering wheel and pressure eased off her nape. He shifted his weight, spread his knees, groaned. Get your hand on my balls. Youre going to swallow. Mindless, she obeyed, humming satisfaction in the back of her throat, molding her palm over the shape of his sac, squeezing gently through his pants. Mac muttered curses above her head. He shifted his grip on her hair, stroked his other hand over her shoulder and found the weight of her breast. I didnt want you to do this to me, he rasped, rolling her nipple between his fingers. Pinching. Glorying in the power hed allowed her to display, the victory hed granted, Amy contracted her cheeks and sucked hard. His

cock jumped in her mouth and he came against the back of her throat. Swallow, he said. The word sounded like a curse. Amy remained on her knees, breathing the scent of his body, gently licking him as he softened in her mouth. Nearby in the parking garage someones car alarm beeped an alert that another person approached. Mac relaxed his hold on her hair and released her. Reluctantly Amy lifted her head and withdrew into her seat as he adjusted his pants and tucked his penis from view. I didnt want you to do this to me, Mac repeated. He shifted the car into gear and drove out of the garage. Amy closed her eyes. The thrill of coercing him into dominating her rapidly abated. Im

sorry. Well discuss it later. Rivulets of water cascaded over the windshield as he nosed into traffic. The thump of the windshield wipers shaped her racing pulse into a new pattern. Amy shivered and hugged herself as she crashed. She tried to hide her letdown from Mac. Maybe he hadnt noticed shed mentally evacuated the scene, earlier. Better if he hadnt. She wouldnt have to explain it to him, or convince him it had been for him, not for the photographer and his props. It wasnt him, she blurted. Confession urged full truth. It had nothing to do with him. It wasnt wine, either. I wanted to be seen. I wanted everyone to watch me. His hands fisted around the steering wheel. Amy. This topic is off-limits right now. Dont

push it. Am I clear? A sidelong glance at his profile showed his jaw set hard, his gaze straight ahead through the rain. Instinctively, she knew he hadnt needed her confession. He knew. Yes, sir. Sir. She couldnt help herselfthe tiny little word just slipped out. Liquid heat followed the syllable. He shot a dark, heavy look her way. She knew that lookhad known him too long to not know itbut she hadnt expected want in his eyes. Anger, hurt, disappointment, but not lust so blatant the inside of the car was suddenly as hot as a steam room. Again. He wanted her again. Mac dropped her off in front of their building and headed for their complexs parking garage. Knees shaking, she took herself up to their apartment.

He wanted her but he didnt want to want her. She had no idea what to do. Attempt to seduce him? Hide from him until tempers cooled and they could talk about it tomorrow? She needed to explain, no matter that part of her believed they would be better off ignoring it. Five minutes became fifteen, uncertainty became fear, and she dialed Elizabeths number. Ive made a mistake, she confessed first thing. I dont think hes coming back. Where are you? Elizabeth asked. At home. Mac dropped me off and didnt come up. Are you safe? She squinted at the locks and bolts on the front door. The chains not put up, she said. But are you safe? Not suicidal or murderous or anything in between?

I think my hearts breaking. Honey, if youre safe right now, I have to call you back. I cant talk. Amy blinked at the rain sluicing down the windows, stunned. But I need you. Somebody else needs me more. Ill call you back. Elizabeth hung up. **** Im sorry. Elizabeths voice interrupted the ghost-reel playing in Macs head. He latched onto her voice and shoved his fathers shouting into the back of his memory. Was that her? Mac huddled in the alcove of a corner grocery, trying to stay out of the way of rainy-day shoppers ducking in and out of the store. I would no more tell you if she called me than

I would tell her that you did, Elizabeth said sharply. I take confidences very seriously. Mac shook his head at the rain and closed his eyes. She wants me to control her. She wants to submit to your dominance. Theres a difference between submission and slavery, Mac. What about between discipline and abuse? Is there a difference between those, too? Im not her father. Im not my father, either. People want different things out of a power exchange relationship. Most of them dont consider what they crave, and what theyre asked for, to be the same as abuse. Power exchange. He exhaled. Is this something she needs in order to be a whole person? Elizabeth hesitated before saying, I dont

know. Maybe. You need to find that out on your own. Shes reaching out to you, asking you to help her determine the answer. I dont know what to do. Youre not supposed to right away. Your job is to find out what to do. You cant know what she really needs until you convince her to talk to you. You have good instincts, though. She sees in you everything she wants. Trust yourself enough to consider exploring the parts of yourself youre not comfortable with. Latent drives were what worried him. Mac swore beneath his breath. Amy had wanted to talk and hed shut her up. What if that was his only chance? Outside, the rain continued to pound the pavement, a wet curtain standing between him and Amy. He opened his mouth to end the call but Elizabeth spoke first.

Listen, shes taken a huge step opening up this much to you. The next step is yours. If you want to walk away, if you cant deal with a wife who needs to surrender control, you should tell her that. If you want to try to be what she needs, explain to her youre willing to try but you need time to learn. And you can learn. If you decide you want to, Ill arrange for you to meet with an experienced dominant who can answer questions and guide you. You have to go and tell her something, though. Shes okay right now, but shes stripped off all her clothes and planted herself in front of you, naked and vulnerable, and shes in a scary place. The longer shes alone, the more frightened shell get. Go home, Mac. Dont torment my friend with silence. He swallowed. Okay.

Call me if you need anything. Advice, or anything. I will. Thank you.

Chapter Six
Amy eventually stopped watching the door and reaching for the telephone. She showered so she could pretend she wasnt crying, but she couldnt trick herselfand she couldnt fool Mac anymore, either. Now he knew, too -- she wasnt the same woman he married. He wouldnt have betrayed her by marching her out in the middle of the street and calling her on her ability to love him. Shed committed a grievous wrong by doing that to him. Needles of water dashed over her skin, punishing her for such vast stupidity. The bathroom door opened, interrupting her self-pity. The shower curtain swayed close and sucked against her skin. Do you still love me? he asked.

Yes caught in her throat. She struggled to force the word to her lips. Why was it so hard? What if she said yes and he didnt love her anymore? Then what defense would she have? Silent moments slipped through her fingers like soapy water, escaping and swirling down the drain. The bathroom door closed and for a single, terrifying moment, she thought hed given up and gone away. You have to answer me, even if the answer hurts. He paused, and asked, Do you? Yes or no. She pulled the curtain back a few inches. Macs reflection in the steamed up mirror was only a blur, devoid of facial features or texture or color. His hand came out of nowhere, folding over hers. The simple touch shook Yes past the block in her throat. She said it again to be

sure. Yes. I still love you. Mac blew out a breath she could hear, even over the patter of water on the shower tiles. His relief gave her anxiety permission to pull back. The tight knot in her stomach eased. Only for a minute though. The night at Elizabeths wasnt the beginning. When did this start? I dont He cut her off. You didnt change overnight. When? The job I took as a figure model for that summer art retreat. She squeezed her sponge hard. Rivulets of soap slid from her wrist to her elbow, silky and softer than her confession. I liked being watched. People studied me, criticized me, drew me into the body they saw.

Jesus, Amy. Fuck. That was more than five years ago. Why didnt you tell me? What was I supposed to say? I changed almost overnight. I didnt know what it meant until later. She exhaled. Mac, your hand is cold as ice, she said. Theres still hot water. Do you want the rest of it? He pulled the curtain back, removing her plastic wall of defense. She shrank up to the wall, covering her chest. Mac was a mess. Rain plastered his hair into a dark, dripping cap. You want people to look at you? Breathing was difficult. Amy mustered a small affirmative squeak. Fine. He released the third and fourth buttons, baring his hard chest, the dark, soft swirls of hair she loved to touch. Cloth parted down to his navel and he pulled the tails from his

pants. Inches lower, his cock once again strained at his fly, the round shape of the head unmistakable. He lowered his zipper. I never had any problems with looking at you. Dont hide yourself from me again. Unless you want to be seen by everybody except me? He stared pointedly at her shielded chest. Half-numb, Amy slowly uncrossed her arms. She didnt know what to do with her hands, or, for that matter, her bodys responses. He had never stripped her of every single hiding place before now. What are you thinking? she ventured. Mac didnt answer. He peeled the sodden shirt from his shoulders and dropped it in the sink. His pants followed and he climbed into the tub, pulling the curtain into place. His erection reached her first, hot and heavy

as it nuzzled the cleft between her thighs. He ducked his head, burying his face against her throat and biting. Amy threaded her fingers through his hair until he grasped her wrists and stretched her arms wide, pinning her hands to the shower tile. She rose on tiptoe and rocked forward, desperate for contact with him. Mac. What am I thinking? Im trying to figure out what you want, he said roughly. The beginnings of a beard scraped her skin. Amy rubbed her cheek along his jaw, imagined the abrasive sensation against the rim of her vagina. Her knees weakened. I want you to make me come. He thrust between her legs, not penetrating. Thats what you want right now? She squirmed, grinding her pelvis against his. The base of his cock lodged up against her clit. A

bolt of pleasure arrowed north, split and targeted her nipples. Amy arched her back, seeking the sensation of his curling hair and wet skin. Please, yes. You cant have that yet. He licked the spot behind her ear. Ask me for something else. Amy hitched her knee high, straining for closer contact. Penetration. Mac lifted her arms above her head and braced her wrists with one hand. He grasped her knee with the other and shoved it down. Amy, look at me and ask for what you want. Breathing hard, she forced her eyes open and blinked rapidly in the spray of water. Macs face was centimeters from hers, his eyes dark and intent. So close the tip of her tongue caressed his lips when she licked hers. This was it. What shed wanted from him. Control and insistence

she recognize his power. His attention, his selfishness. The water began to lose its heat but her body didnt. She swallowed, flushed and hot, and said, Will you fuck me, Mac? He surged between her legs, riding the slick valley but still holding back. Thats not all you want. Tell me the damned truth. She curled her hands into fists above her head. God, Mac. I want you to make me feel like I belong to you. Like you want the world to know I belong to you. He ducked his head, but not before she saw the surprise in his eyes. He released her hands, cupped her ass and lifted her. The grout between the tiles, jagged in places, scraped her shoulders as he slid her up the wall. Amy reflexively wrapped her arms around his neck and spread her legs.

Theres no way I can be gentle with you right now, he muttered. Her eyes closed against the deluge of water raining over them and she rocked her head back against the wall. Gentle or brutal didnt matter; she exulted in the physical contact, the solid assurance he still wanted her. She hiked her legs up high around his waist and dug her heels against the small of his back, ensuring he couldnt rescind his claim. He pumped hard and fast, shoving her into the wall, his fingertips digging painfully into her hips. Amy worked one hand between their bodies. Her fingertips slipped over her clit and a tiny shock of climax jolted through her limbs. Mac bit her shoulder, punishing, hard. No. Not until I say so. Wild with want, desperate to please him, she

balled her hand into a fist. Mac drove into her another half dozen times and growled Mine in her ear as he came. After, with the water pounding cold over their heads and Amy trembling in his arms, he whispered, I love you.

Chapter Seven
Twice wasnt enough. His cock stirred again, rising against her thigh. Even the chill that had set into her skin didnt diminish the drive to fill her again. He kissed the side of her neck, her cheek, and turned off the water. He ignored the urge to take her a third time, still conscious of the fact hed selfishly denied her climax. This soon after breaking abstinence, despite coming twice, he wasnt certain hed be generous enough to focus on her. Amy didnt need further stimulation, anyway, if her jumping pulse and jittery hands were any indication. The shell-shocked look in her eyes worried him even as her fragility turned him on. Her vulnerability shouldnt arouse him. Come dry off. He dragged a towel off the rack hanging over the laundry hamper and

rubbed it over her shoulders. Amy drew a corner of the towel up to dry her face and ears. He started to scrub at her hair and hesitated. How long until the dye fades? Not long. A week. Its temporary. Good. Dont do it again. It doesnt look like you. She lowered her eyes. I wont. He dried her hair and drew her from the tub, carefully blotting the water from her legs and feet. Can I have my robe? Mac hesitated, remembering the way shed covered herself in the shower. Looking up the line of her body, he met her eyes. Do you want it because youre cold or because youre naked? She frowned, relieving his worry she was retreating from him. A frown was a sign of

emotion, something besides meek surrender. Im cold because Im naked, she said. Mac straightened and dried himself with the damp towel. That doesnt answer my question. Then I dont understand the question. Do you want to be warm, or do you want to be covered up so I cant see you? She bit her lip, which was answer enough for him. Mac dropped his towel on the floor, pulled her purple bathrobe off its hook, took her hand, and led her into the kitchen. Throw it away. He pushed the bundle of cloth into her hands. Turn up the heat if you get cold, but you wont wear clothes when we are alone in our home. If you want to be seen, Ill see you. Her breath quickened and her chest flushed pink. She shook as she obeyed him and

discarded the robe. You hide from me too much. He caressed the curve of her back, stroking from her nape to her hips as she bent over the trashcan. I dont want to play hide and seek. I want to reach out and find you where youre supposed to be. She struggled with figuring out how to hold herself after she straightened. Mac watched silently as she folded her arms across her chest only to realize what shed done and drop them to her sides. She laced her fingers together below her navel and aborted that in the next motion. Distress pulled at her mouth and struck him with the force of a direct hit. You can always hide behind me if you really need to hide, he reminded her, trying to make the words gentle, to hide the pain of knowing she needed a reminder. Just no more hiding from

me. Will you hold me? Her voice was so small he ached. If you come to me. She moved, leaning into him chest to thigh. He tried to adjust himself so he didnt jab her with his persistent erection and hugged her close. Her soap drew him into its clean, floral bouquet. He cradled the back of her head, pressing her cheek to his shoulder. Christ, hed missed the weight and curve of her body. Now what? The question kissed his skin. He shivered. Now we figure out whats gone wrong, and work on making it better. What if it takes too long? I promised you forever. He squeezed her briefly, then turned her around and nudged her toward the bedroom. Do you want the heat

up? Amy paused at the thermostat on the wall between the kitchen and the bedroom, and shook her head. She eased back half a step until the head of his cock rubbed her hip, and looked back at him, over her shoulder. Im not cold anymore. Indecision caught and held him fast. He wanted her, but he didnt want their relationship to turn from sexless to sex-based. Besides, the direct approach wasnt in character for his wife. She didnt initiate. She gave little signs, hugged and cuddled, but she didnt turn around and rub up against his dick and say do me, even in a subtle fashion. Unless he read her wrong, though, thats exactly what she had just done. The change in her was too fast, too abrupt. A single instance of taking charge and forcing her to talk

to him couldnt have spurred that kind of a transformation. Uncertainty cooled his arousal; his energy faded along with his erection. Between his shift, Amys session, and everything after, hed been awake too long. The fingernail of sky visible between the kitchen curtains attested to the passage of time. It wasnt storm-dark anymore. True dark had taken over. He took too long to respond. Amy ducked her head and half-turned toward their bedroom, wringing her hands. Shit. He didnt want to make a poor judgment call and lose her again. If he were honest with himself, he didnt know how to proceed anyway. Amys stomach rumbled. Im too tired and youre hungry, he said by way of rejecting her offer. Call in something for

delivery and come lie down with me. She missed a beat responding, probably because she hadnt expected to be turned down. He wrapped his arm around her waist and cupped her breast possessively. Do you have any jobs scheduled tomorrow? Nothing yet. Its my day to be on call at the agency. Cancel your day. Youre mine tomorrow, and I dont feel like sharing. Are you going to work tonight? Night off. Oh. I didnt realize. Her shoulders hunched, a certain sign of shame. We havent paid attention for a long time. She jerked a nod, blinking rapidly. Tears. Dont cry. He kissed her ear and let her go. I feel like Mexican.

He left her to take care of dinner and her phone calls, and switched directions to the laundry room. All his clothes were in baskets near the dryer these days, a symbolic material separation. He gathered an armload of underwear and t-shirts and took them back to the bedroom, determined to reclaim his half of the bureau. Amys voice murmured in the other room. He was tempted to boot her laptop and do a quick internet search for advice on handling a submissive woman outside the context of fetish sex, but good sense told him to put it off until a less emotionally-charged time. Instinct would have to do. In the meantime, he wasnt entirely ignorant. He at least had his parents as examples in how not to behave. As an attempt to keep his libido in check, he

pulled on a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. When she padded into the room, damp pink hair curling around her ears and pale little nipples hard, he was glad hed had the forethought to cover himself. Horniness was giving his good sense a run for its money. Forty-five minutes. She worried her lip. I hope shrimp is alright. I didnt know what you had yesterday. Did you have seafood? No. Shrimp is fine. Come here. Amy inched closer. Can I ask a question? Mac spread his knees and drew her between his legs. The flannel definitely wasnt helping. Yes. Why dont you want to have sex again? Her hands fluttered to rest on his shoulders. Because I dont know what to do for you. He leaned in, resting his forehead above her

navel, breathing in the scent of her skin. I havent known for a long time.

Chapter Eight
Vulnerable. She never thought of him as vulnerable. He was tall and broad, strong and masculine. He was a protector, never one who needed protection. Viewing him this way, though, seated on the edge of the bed, blue and white pajama pants barely covering the physical manifestation of his needthis way, she was inspired to protect him. Im his only natural predator. He could defend himself from everything but her. She never realized how much power she held over him, not until that thought dropped down heavy on her mind. Ive been hurting you. He slid his hands around the backs of her thighs. Im not broken. I promise its no hurt we

cant heal. He kissed her stomach, nipped at the fragile skin above her navel. Amy shivered and goose bumps spread out in waves from his kiss. Her breasts firmed, her toes curled. She wanted to work through their emotional baggage, but more, she wanted him to take her again, to slam into her body over and over, once more promising he wouldnt leave. That hed take her as she was. Mac, she whispered, fingering the hair waving at the nape of his neck. He tilted his head back, met her eyes with a question. We have half an hour, she said. More. His fingers flexed, squeezing her thighs. She ran her fingernails around the curve of his ear and it was his turn to shudder. Amy-- Please.

I dont have toys. I dont need them. He closed his eyes. I cant hit you. I cant hurt you. Thisit isnt about kinky sex. I miss you. I want to be part of you. He smoothed his hands up to cup her bottom, kneading and tickling the crease between her cheeks. Please, she repeated. Its been so long. I need you again. You dont have to be gentle. Or perfect. Just deep inside. His fingertips teased lower, one circling her entrance. Amy swallowed and dug her nails into his skin. Mac. His shoulders tensed beneath her hands. I want to come inside you again, until youre overflowing, and every inch of your skin smells

like me. You think I dont want to claim you, force every stranger on the street to acknowledge you belong to me, but youre wrong. For months, all Ive been able to think about is forcing you down on your hands and knees so I can mount you and stake my claim like an animal. Heat spiraled slow and heavy down her legs. Amy drew a deep, ragged breath and closed her eyes, imagining the weight and warmth of him covering her back. Theyd made love that way before. Of course they had. He would pause, ease out, whisper for her to turn over. She always did so eagerly, relishing the freedom to rub back against him, loving the pinch as he clutched her hips to hold her in place. Before he could change his mind, she turned in his arms. Mac stopped her, his hold tightening. Where

are you going? Ito the floor? The closet stood open, their images reflected in the long mirror hung from the back of the door. Not there. Youre better than that. Dark hair fell across Macs brow, hiding his eyes. His lips grazed the bend of her waist and he drew her backward, across his thighs and onto the bed. Instead of turning her onto her stomach, he rolled between her legs and leaned over her, his elbow on the mattress beside her shoulder. He closed his eyes, took a lock of her hair between his fingers. I want to be the man you need. The pain she causeda need to heal it burned in her chest. You are. He shook his head and kissed her the upper curve of her breast. Maybe on some levels, but not all. Not anymore.

Mac The muscles in his back bunched beneath her hands. Hot and wet, his tongue claimed the skin between her breasts. Slid lower. She shoved her heels into the mattress, lifted her hips off the bed and rubbed her sex along the hard slope of his abdomen. Mac. I want you. I need you. Good. Thats good, he muttered. To himself, she realized when he lifted his head, eyes still closed, and pushed her knees high, folding her thighs back against her breasts. Without warning, he bit her stomach, a small, sharp pain that raised her nipples. Breathing hard, she clutched at his hair. Mac? Shhh. His tongue again, drawing circles between her shins. Lower. The wet tip swirled between her labia, probed the hood of her clit,

swept long and hard down one side of her sex and up the other. She curled her toes against his shoulders and pitched her hips, straining to draw his tongue inside. Mac evaded her. He held her ankles and pushed them wide, ruining her leverage. And then he licked deeper, lower, the flat of his tongue soft and velvety between her cheeks. Oh, God, she moaned. Splaying her fingers over the back of his head, she tried to force him back to her. He shook his head, denying her efforts. Let go. Hold your knees for me, baby. Reluctant to break contact with him, she disentangled her fingers and clasped her knees. Thick fingers rewarded her instantly, slipping into her heat, stretching and curling to find the knot hidden inside. Amy sucked a hard breath,

suddenly short on oxygen. The pads of his fingers found his target, dragging an animal groan from her throat. Oh, please, she whispered, hugging her knees tight to her chest, rolling her hips toward him. Mac flicked his tongue through her cream and hummed a masculine, approving sound. Please what? Want that again? he asked, thrusting shallowly, drawing back. Yes. Her sheath clenched, muscles contracting of their own accord, trying and failing to drag his fingers deeper. She tightened her stomach until the muscles ached, trying to impale herself. Mac held back. Yes, what? Shallow, stretching, he worked a third finger just past her rim. Youre teasing me. She craned her neck,

trying to see him between her legs. He met her eyes, his lips sticky and wet from her arousal. Mac, please. Im not psychic, Amy. Please what? He licked between his fingers, the softness of his tongue at odds with his rough, quick fingers. She bit her lip, panting, trying to conceal her rapidly weakening grasp on self-control. She would have closed her eyes, if his werent so intently locked on hers, ordering them to remain open without a single word spoken. Please fuck me, she whispered, praying she didnt stumble over the three little syllables. Mac didnt respond. His fingers flexed, stilled, and the pulse at the base of his throat jumped as he swallowed. She tried again, barely breathing the word, Sir?

Not fucking, Mac corrected, rising above her. Loving. Thats the word you use, Amy. Say it. Ask me to make love to you. She froze, unable to ask. She couldnt. She hadnt earned his loving, couldnt bring herself to ask for it. If she asked, he would give it unconditionally. Instead, she moaned and rocked her hips, squeezed his fingers with her body, and pleaded with small, wordless sounds. Mac swore. Do not close up on me. Her arms slid around her shins. Amy tried to roll aside. I dont deserve it. He fingers stilled, eased from her body, and suddenly he crouched above her, his mouth on hers, tender and full of love. He gave her one of the kisses shed begged for when they were teenagers, when he was more urgent than attentive. Amy squeezed her eyes shut. Tears

burned behind her eyelashes. Tell me why, he whispered. Tell me something real. She pushed against his shoulders, tried to escape his weight. This isnt fair to you. Im so God. Im so sorry. Slowly, he shifted to stretch out beside her. The tears shed tried to contain broke free. Amy rolled away. Mac grabbed her before she found her feet. Physically overpowering, he pinned her arms to her sides and threw a heavy thigh across her legs. One of his big hands cupped the back of her head and held her face to his chest. Dont leave, he muttered into her hair. Christ. Whatever fucked-up ideas youve gotten in your head, dont ever think I want you to leave.

Chapter Nine
Amy cried herself limp while he held her. Dinner arrived before she stopped trembling. He reluctantly pushed off the bed, pausing to kiss her swollen, salt-red lips, and grabbed a towel to sling around his hips. Amy reached for a blanket. He didnt have time to stop her because the doorbell rang a second time. Meet me in the kitchen, he said on his way to the door. He carried a bag of tacos into the kitchen to find her waiting, naked thighs tucked primly beneath the table, arms folded atop it, shielding her breasts from view without actively covering them. Shed splashed her face with water and rinsed away the tear tracks but she couldnt wash away the glassy sheen of misery in her eyes.

Unsure what to do besides strive for some semblance of normalcy, he brought down a simple table setting and filled two glasses with premixed margarita. Still hungry? Yes. She sniffed hard and unpacked the bag, discarding wax paper wrappings and arranging taco shells and fillings on the table. She didnt look at him. Mac stood behind her, watching her pry the plastic cover from a dish of sour cream. She sat on edge, back straight as a post. He ran his hand between her shoulder blades, relishing the texture of her skin, the silkiness of the tiny, short little blond hairs he could feel but not see. Her heartbeat stepped up a beat, fluttering against the heel of his palm where it rested beneath her left shoulder. Are you going to sit with me? She hunched

forward to reach for a glass. He didnt like the distance in her voice, and withdrew to wrap his hands around the upper slat that crossed the back of her chair. He couldnt hurt wood by squeezing it too hard in frustration. Striving for an even tone, he said, Youre not comfortable. She set the glass back down and ducked her head. Mac closed his eyes and tried to untangle the knots of fear twisting his stomach. If they made it through the night, they could face the rest of their lives with emotions made calmer by a little sleep. And a lot of sex, although he wasnt sure, now, that he should have allowed their physical intimacy to proceed before getting their other issues under control. If they didnt make it through the night, if he tripped up and scared her, or said the wrong

thing, he feared he would wake up to find her gone. He couldnt burden her with his worries, though. She needed him to help her with her own, not add to them. He drew a deep breath, and tried to blow his anxiety out with it. After Amy swallowed a few sips from her drink, he said, I want you to tell me about Olivieri. Who? The man at Elizabeths party. Tony Olivieri. Her fingers clenched around the stem of her glass. I didnt know his last name. Tell me about him, he repeated. Amy moistened her lips and didnt meet his eyes. What do you want to know? Did he approach you or did you approach him? Ia group of guests was admiring a print on

Elizabeths wall. A woman bound with rope. He identified it as Japanese knotwork and said hed recently begun studying the binding patterns. Someone suggested he provide a demonstration. She ducked her head, staring at the taco abandoned on her plate. It had nothing to do with him, Mac. I swear. I dont even remember what he looks like. But nobody volunteered and he caught my eye and said I looked intrigued. He asked whether I needed to get permission from anybody in order to be his volunteer. Did you even consider calling me to ask? She nodded. Her hands vanished beneath the table and her shoulders hunched as she started to curl in on herself. I thought youd be angry. Youre hiding. Look at me. He reached across the table and cupped her chin, forcing her

head up. Misery darkened her eyes and stabbed at his gut, warned him to retreat and let it go. But he couldnt do that. He needed to know what had happened, and she needed to know he wasnt afraid to learn. Did you think I would have said no? I thoughtI dont know. Its so stupid. Im so stupid. I thought if I asked, youd tell me I needed to make my own decisions. And then I thought youd tell me not to come home. But everyone was watching me and I was soso turned on. Her cheeks flushed. She closed her eyes, an attempt, he was sure, to avoid facing him. Im sorry. I dont want anybody except you. I wanted to pretend heTonywas you. That you were putting me on display, telling me I was being a good girl, inviting people to test the tension of your knots

She trailed off, her eyes still closed. Mac touched the corner of her mouth with his thumb and marveled at the quickness of her breath. Remembering aroused her all over again. He had no doubt he could slip his hand between her legs and find her wet. Getting Amy turned on wasnt a problemnot even for him. Getting her off, on the other handfuck. He wasnt unaffected by her telling. Jealousy heated his blood but desire overshadowed it. Amy, bound and spread and presented to a crowd of people who couldnt touch her unless he gave permission, who could only study her and envy himthe idea appealed to him on a very base level. He wanted to publicly stake his claim. Wanted her to be wholly his again, the way shed once been. Amy, look at me, he murmured.

She swallowed but obediently lifted her lashes to meet his eyes. Im not sharing you with anybody. Ever. You and I do not have an open relationship. You are my wife and you belong in my bed. If theres something you want but arent finding, you tell me. You dont find it elsewhere. Her breath shuddered out, a ragged exhale. What if its not what you want? Then well figure out our options and decide from there. His lips quirked, a wry smile. Im not entirely turned off by all of this, you know. Youre not? But youre so Her hand fluttered in the air, the sentence unfinished. Youre not the only one of us who can change. He squeezed her chin gently and released her. You should finish eating. She nodded and they shared the remainder of

the meal in silence. Amy eventually broke the quiet. You look tired, she said. So do you. Amys shoulders drooped in exhaustion instead of shame. Purple circles showed beneath her eyes, punctuating the pink blotches of color left by the salt of her tears. Mac pushed away from the table. Leave the mess for tomorrow. He hiked up the towel he still wore around his hips, and held out his hand. Lets go to bed. Its been a long day. Together? She bit her bottom lip. Youre my wife, and thats our bed. Im not sleeping on the couch anymore. I didnt want you to leave it at all. I know. Separate rooms had been his idea. Hed needed space to figure out how he felt

about her not-quite betrayal, and hed thought privacy would make her happy, since his presence didnt seem to. He should have been comforted by the knowledge shed thought wrong about their relationship, the same as he had. Instead, her insecurity unsettled him deeply. If the rings on her finger werent enough of a public declaration of his desire for and devotion to her, what would he have to do? Amy slept fitfully. Her restlessness kept him awake. By morning, he had a plan. **** She woke up to scratchy, swollen eyes, an empty bed, and a note from Mac. I need to take care of a few things. Ill be

back. Remember, no clothes. Amy crumpled the sheet of stationery and threw it in the bathroom trash. Shed been wrestling with her screwed up emotions, had barely slept all night for trying to figure out how to verbalize what she wanted. And what had he been doing? Making a mental list of morning errands to run? Fine. If he didnt have to keep his word, she didnt have to keep hers. Frustrated and hurt, she defiantly dressed in jogging pants and a t-shirt. So much for working out their marital problems. He had things to do. She distracted herself by cleaning up the mess left from dinner, and any other mess she could find. The living room looked much more presentable once she stripped his linens from the couch and stuffed them in the laundry. She brought out the vacuum and started in the living

room, moving from one end of their apartment to the other. She had to get down on her knees and duck her head under the dust ruffle in order to vacuum beneath the bed, but she didnt mind. The electronic whir of the upright gave her muchneeded mental white noise. Hands on her hips, jerking her sweats down over her bottom and pulling her bodily from beneath the bed, startled her into a scream. She kicked out of instinct, to no avail. Macs expression was thunderous as he hauled her to her feet and pushed her onto the mattress, wrestling her pants free of her feet and tossing them aside. He knelt astride her hips, pulled the vacuum hose from her hand, and whipped her shirt over her head. We had an agreement, he said, breathing hard above her. His hands came down on either

side of her shoulders and his gaze fastened on hers. Why did you break it? Her temper spiked. You said youd take the day off with me. I left you a note explaining. Why are you wearing clothes? Denim rubbed her abdomen roughly where he straddled her hips. Amy swallowed, unsure how to answer him. Her body wanted to arch and distract him from the anger in his eyes, to turn the hot emotion into a different heat. Her up-ended headspacehell. She didnt know what her head wanted. You cant expect When youre in our home, you wont hide yourself from me. You agreed to that. Macs jaw clenched. Im trying. If youre not going to try, too--

Im not perfect, she snapped. She turned her head away so she wouldnt have to look into his eyes. You cant expect that from me. I can expect you to follow a simple directive. Or have I misunderstood what you want from me? Mac turned her face back to him. He didnt squeeze, but the heat of his palm against her pulse promised he would force her to meet his eyes if she didnt comply of her own volition. Heat coiled deep inside, responding to his power. So punish me if Im being bad, she challenged. His features hardened and he lowered his hand. Amy. Mac. She searched his eyes intently, picking out layers of emotion when she could read them. Frustration, helplessness, desire, love,

fear--all made a puzzling combination. Regret surfaced as well. If she hadnt been paying attention, she would have missed all those layers, for as soon as she identified them they vanished behind a neutral mask. Get up and come with me. He backed off the bed and left her there, clearly expecting her to follow. She didnt have to do it. She could change her mind. Retain the upper hand in their relationship, stay with the safety of knowing their marriage would be over soon. One or the other of them would eventually file for divorce. Their separation would hurt, but it would be comfortable, and she wouldnt be vulnerable to anybody but herself. A rustle of paper reached her ears, coming from the vicinity of the living room. Would divorce paperwork sound like that? Her throat

convulsed on a silent sob and she covered her ears to block the sound. She sat abruptly and forced herself off the bed to go to him. He sat on the edge of their couch, on the middle cushion. She studied him from the doorway. Morning beard shadowed his jaw and strain creased his brow; he held his head in his hands and rubbed his temples with his thumbs. She couldnt imagine a home without him. Breathing deep to brace herself, she said, Im not perfect. Macs hands stilled. He looked up at her and frowned. I never demanded that you be perfect. You tell me I am, and I have to live up to it. I cant do that. I cant be flawless, never making mistakes. Im going to make you mad. Im going to do the wrong thing sometimes. Im going to

have to fake an orgasm once in a while, and every now and then I forget a check Ive written and overdraw the checking account. Im going to get pissed off at the world and take it out on you. Im not perfect. Amy-- Please let me finish. She scrubbed at her cheeks. Her fingers came away wet with tears. Crying. Again. Mac dragged his hand through his hair, but nodded permission to go on. You cant let me make mistakes without pointing them out to mewithout some kind of punishment. I know you dont want to hurt me, but I need you to acknowledge Ive done something wrong. If you dontif you just take it, roll over and go on with your life, never telling me to stop being a bitch or stop being selfish, or whatever it is Im doingif you dont make me

stop when I do it, then I dont know Ive done it at all until youre hurt. Her voice broke on the last word. She hid against the doorjamb, clutching the wood as if it were a life raft and she was drowning. Mac, I love you more than life, she whispered. Come here. It wasnt a request. His voice was thick and rough, and it cut through her tears. She didnt want to leave the safety of the door, but shed asked him to be the order-giver, the law-enforcer of their household, and she forced her feet to move. She stopped with the coffee table between them. Not there. Here. He pointed to the space between his denim-clad knees. She moved again. He leaned back and looked up at her. You understand what youre asking of me?

She nodded. Youre asking me to give you rules, and decide whether your choices and behavior are wrong or right. Youre asking me to punish you if youve been bad, reward you if youve been good. To shoulder the responsibility for your physical comfort and your mental and emotional well being. He exhaled slowly, and said, To make you happy. Yes. No. You already make me happy-- No, I dont. Stop lying to yourself, and to me. I want both of us to be happy. I want you to show me how to make you happy. By abusing you. The flat quality of his voice interrupted her anxiety. That was his injured voice, withdrawn and lacking intonation, and it hit hard. She sank

to her knees between his legs and reached for his hands. Its not abuse! You wont be hurting me. Youll be helping. Helping this way can turn into hurting very easily. He rubbed the tips of her fingers against his own and held her hand up, showing the difference in their sizes. Its not just a physical risk. Its an emotional risk, too. Youre inviting me to overpower your body and your emotions. Another protest came to her lips but she silenced it. Mac balled his hands around hers, molding them into fists, and rested his forehead atop their joined fingers. Amy, my mother didnt fight back when Dad hit her. Not because she was weak or afraid, but because shed given him responsibility for her life. She promised to obey him and be what he needed, and figured if he needed a punching bag, that was her role. I dont

want to be him. I dont want to turn you into her. Youre a different man, she whispered. Mac lifted his head. Because I havent allowed myself to become him. Ive removed the situational conditions that could give me the opportunity. And you want me to make myself vulnerable. Vulnerable isnt the same thing as weak. Youre the strongest person I know. You can handle this, she said, willing him to believe in his own strength. He closed his eyes and pressed her fingers to his lips. Last night I gave you your first rule. Amys chest tightened. About wearing clothes. That you are no longer allowed to wear clothes when were alone, meaning without

guests, in our home. Did you misunderstand the rule? No. She sighed. I was pissed off because you werent there when I woke up and I wanted to get back at you. I was being a childish brat. Youve been talking to me about mistakes, Mac said. And youve told me what role you want me to fill in your life. Is there anything else you want to add? She shook her head and stared at the superhero logo on his t-shirt, unsure what the flip-flop in her stomach meant. Nerves, not fear. She wasnt afraid of him. Okay. Do you understand the difference between a mistake and an act of defiance? Yes. Explain it to me. A mistake is a genuine error. Maybe caused

by forgetfulness or distraction, or just not having the information needed to do the right thing. An act of defiance is deliberately breaking a rule. Very good, he said slowly. I am willing to accept this responsibility youre asking of me, but not before I make myself clear on issues of rules and punishments. First, mistakes are not punishable offenses. If you find yourself making a mistake, we will work on correcting the conditions that led to it. Defiance will be punished, and afterward well work on correcting the urges that prompted you to break a rule. Ill never admonish you for a genuine error, but I wont be lenient with deliberate willfulness. As we grow into this, we will mutually decide in which areas you need guidance. For now, though, you will follow one rule, and that is you are to give me every emotion you have. No

hiding sadness. No pretending confidence. No faking that youre turned on. Deciding to fake or hide something isnt making a mistake. Its deliberate. You claim you dont want to do things that will hurt me, he continued. Revise your thinking and change hurt to deceive. Get in your mind and heart a dedication to being truthful with me. Are you unclear on anything so far? No, sir, she whispered. The small word danced in her stomach like startled butterflies. He stood and pulled her to her feet, keeping her so close his thighs brushed hers and the fibers of his shirt teased her nipples. The butterfly dance increased its tempo. So you know what to expect now, and in the future, never forget that in this household, the punishment will fit the intent of the crime. He put his foot on the edge of the

coffee table and shoved it back. Bend over, Amy.

Chapter Ten
Shock widened her eyes and the color drained from her cheeks. Her lips parted, some words forming to forestall him, no doubt. Mac touched his finger to her lips. You admitted to breaking the rule. Bend over. She stepped back into the space hed cleared for her and bent to hug his thigh. Hed expected her to turn away from him and brace herself on the coffee table; this choice put him at a loss. He focused on controlling himself, but the prospect of spanking his wife, his best friend, made him tremble. Amy wouldnt miss that, not with her arms wrapped around his thigh and her cheek on his hip. She wouldnt miss the rock hard bulge that betrayed his arousal, either. He caressed the length of her back, stroking

from her shoulders to the crest of her bottom. Hed forgotten the silky texture of her skin. She had a fair complexion, pale and prone to bruising; he squeezed her left cheek and his thumbprint showed white, then red, against her skin. He didnt want to hurt herhitting was synonymous with abuse in his mind. The first slap was light and tentative and it landed closer to the small of her back instead of square on her behind. Amy jumped but didnt cry out. Her heartbeat accelerated beneath his free hand. Mac widened his stance and cupped her hip, repositioning her at an angle that gave him access to the full round of her ass. The second slap connected with a resounding crack of flesh on flesh, and left his palm tingling. He flexed his fingers and marveled at the sensation of needles pricking his palm. Sharing her discomfort

anchored him more firmly in the moment. It created a strange connection. Amy whimpered and the vibration of her small sound shot through his wrist. Mouth dry, he brought his hand down again, glorying in the hot sting that spread across his skin. She tightened her grip on his thigh and his cock jumped. He spanked her again, half a dozen times in deliberately timed succession, fascinated by the progression of color from pale cream to deep, angry pink. Her gasps echoed every smack. Amy shook, but except for sharp little breaths and the occasional mew muffled against his hip, she remained silent. He could spank her until she cried out and begged him to stop. The urge crept in the back of his mind, so strong it made him catch his breath. The prospect of reducing Amy to a red-assed,

quivering mess jacked up his heart rate. Would she enjoy it? He balled his hand into a fist, resisting the urge to strike her again, but couldnt chase off a curiosity. His fingers relaxed, slid over the friction-heated curve of her bottom, and brushed her curls in what he hoped was a discreet touch. She arched her back and rubbed against his hand. She was wet. The discovery nearly undid him. His fingers slid deeper into her cream, drawn to her entrance and the tight, slippery knot beyond. Let go, he said, suppressing a fantasy of slipping behind her, unzipping his fly, and ramming into her. God. Her ass would be so warm against his groin. Stand up. His breathing was shallow, testament to his excited state. He prayed Amy didnt misunderstand his arousal for an interest in abusing her.

She didnt respond immediately. He patted her hip, and when that didnt work, delivered a sharp slap to her left ass cheek. The blow startled a jerk from her. Amy. Stand up. Sluggishly, she loosened her grip and straightened. She lost her balance and he caught her before the slight sway turned into a full-out fall. Supporting her with one arm around her waist, he cupped her face and investigated her eyes. The glassy quality and dilated pupils made him frown. Salty tears reddened and puffed the rims. Hed made her cry. Again. The realization shook him down to the soles of his feet. Gradually, her pupils returned to normal and awareness came back to her features. She focused her gaze on his. A flush crept and spread beneath his hands, staining her face in shades of rose. Mac? she whispered.

Im right here. He felt foolish saying that, knowing she was looking right at him and knew exactly where he was. He needed to reassure her, though. She looked so fragile and dazed. That hurt. His heart lodged in his throat. It hurt me when you decided my explanation for being away wasnt good enough, and broke your word to stop hiding from me. She flinched and dropped her eyes. He steeled himself against the instinct-voice screaming at him to hug her close and whisper apologies, and instead took her shoulders and turned her to face away from him. Go sit in the corner until I call you. Amy hesitated. He gently pushed her toward the east corner of the room. Nose to the wall, he added. She sniffed and wiped at her cheeks

as she moved to do as hed instructed. His shoulders slumped, the muscles releasing physical tension he hadnt been aware of until that moment. While Amy cooled her heels, and her reddened behind, in the corner, he went to splash cold water on his face. Her arousal perfumed his fingers. Mac braced himself with both hands on the bathroom counter, and stared at his reflection in the mirror. He didnt see a monster. That was his normal every day face looking back at him, minus the lines of a sleepless night. He rinsed away the beads of nervous sweat on his forehead and wished the phone would ring. He needed Elizabeth to call back because he couldnt fumble blindly forever, not and do the job right. Returning to the living room, he braced his shoulder against the doorjamb and studied her.

She knelt stiffly, her hands on her thighs, her nose in the corner as hed instructed. Her buttocks and upper thighs were still bright, angry red. His erection, gone soft upon discovering her tears, roused itself and pressed eagerly against his fly. Just the sight of her skin, hot from his hands, infused him with a surge of power hed never known before. He cleared his throat. Are you thirsty? She nodded. He retrieved a bottle of water for each of them, careful not to touch her when he placed her water on the floor beside her. He moved the tissue box over so she could reach that, too, and stood behind her. I went out this morning to have coffee with Olivieri, he said. Ive arranged for him to feature you in a knot work demonstration hes giving this weekend. Ive also given permission

for you to be photographed. Youll need to buy a mask before the event.

Chapter Eleven
Amy shifted her weight but didnt turn. Her toes curled and she inched her feet closer together. He crouched beside her and stroked the back of her head, permitting himself a slight smile for the way the ends of her hair wound around his fingers. No reaction? Are you going to be there? Yes. And hell defer to me in every decision thats to be made about you. Your comfort, the tightness of his ropes. Youll keep your eyes on me. She exhaled, the breath shaky and rough. Are you interested? Baby, the more I think about it, the harder I get. He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and kissed the lobe. "You've been here long enough. Come talk with me." He pressed one of his t-shirts into her hand. Amy straightened away from the wall. She glanced at the folded square of black cotton, but didn't put it on. "I'm not comfortable doing everything naked." "I know. Youre not comfortable doing everything clothed, either. Your physical nudity is a symbol of being emotionally

naked. Emotionally open." "Being naked for you in any way is hard. Theres nothing to hide imperfections. I want you to see me, but at the same time, Im afraid youll see something you cant love." He frowned. I never wanted a perfect woman. I wanted you. I wanted you to have a perfect woman. She braced her hand against the wall for support and unfolded her legs. "My feet are asleep." "I'll rub the needles away." Mac rose and held her elbow as she hobbled over to the sofa. She swung her feet up onto his lap without a second prompting. Red nail polish caught the light and made her small feet seem delicate. He studied her toes while he talked. Working the soles of her feet with his thumbs provided a meditative peace he hadn't expected to find in an action so simple. "I realize in retrospect that I set a rule without giving you an opportunity to negotiate the terms. I didnt really explain the purpose, either. Your nudity isnt just a symbol of your own openness. Its also a symbol of my attention. If your breasts sway when you bend over to pick something up, youll remember

that I gave your body freedom to move. Youll remember me. More importantly, youll remember youre mine, and youll remember Ive taken away all of your obligations to be perfect in any regard. You dont want an unequal marriage, though. Her toes curled against his wrist. Im confused. I wanted you to want this, but I didnt really expect that youd change your mind. I shouldnt have put you in that position, Amy said. I was trying to manipulate you. Not to make you jealous, she clarified, but to make you want me again. Im sorry.

He gently pinched her Achilles tendons and moved on to massage her ankles. His gaze strayed up the pale, shapely length of her legs. She held his t-shirt, still folded, over the apex of her thighs. Unsure what to make of her continued nudity, he refrained from comment on the shirt, and instead met her eyes. I cant remember a single day in the last twenty years that I havent wanted you. Her eyes widened. But--

No buts, Amy. He gave her a quick, sheepish grin. Youve been the object of every jerk-off fantasy since the day you picked up that Mets hat for me. Remember that? She flushed. Mac, I was thirteen! So? Not much younger than me. You expected a fifteen year old punk not to notice when a pretty blonde bent over and flashed her tits? Youre the one who wasnt wearing a bra, he pointed out. Amy rolled her eyes. I was practically flat til I went to college. You were stroking it to a trick of the light. The crude phrase rolling off her lips nudged his now-aching dick into a third-wind hard on. It reminded him of serious business on the table. He shifted her feet off his thigh and onto the sofa. Best if he didnt tempt his hands.

I need to know exactly what you want from me, he said. The smile that had been playing at the corners of her mouth vanished. If its physical punishment, I cant do it. What I didI enjoyed it too much. I was too tempted to keep hitting you. I didnt even know Id pushed you to the point of tears until I decided enough was enough, and saw your face. Spanking for playthats something else. I think I could do that if you wanted. But I cant be a physical disciplinarian. She averted her eyes. Shades of pink spread over her cheeks, down her shoulders, and across the tops of her breasts. He wouldve given anything to know what thoughts were running through her head and making her small nipples bead up into hard little buttons. He could order her to tell him, but he made himself give her time

to share on her own. She cleared her throat. I have a fantasy, she said, so low he wasnt sure he heard her correctly. She rocked up to her knees and cupped his erection. A current of shock-sensation charged into his balls. He caught her wrist and held her gaze. You havent answered my question. But I want you. You want to distract me and Im not letting you. Not until you set some boundaries. I refuse to hurt you out of ignorance. You know what my limits are, she said. You know me. Mac inched away and stood, suddenly claustrophobic and nervous. I dont know this aspect of you. He cringed at the edge in his words. Amys face fell. I want to, he clarified,

but I dont yet, so you have to tell me. She settled back on her heels and tipped her head back, looking up at him. Her eyes, the anxious set of her mouth, pleaded with him. I dont want to be blindfolded. The dark frightened her. He knew that. He didnt realize it extended itself to a controlled blindfold situation, though. What else? Nothingdirty. She squirmed. No golden showers, or anything like that. What about handcuffs? Id like those. Anal sex? Hed never penetrated her there, but asked for safetys sake. Amys flush surprised him. Not yet, she whispered. She lowered her eyes. Mac raised his eyebrows at her response.

Hed only asked for sake of thoroughness, and hadnt expected a midway response. It drove home how little he really knew his wife. Would he be taking advantage of her wishes if he used her submissive desires to quiz her about all the things he never knew, but wondered? The prospect of being let in on her fantasy made him eager as a kid. Every conversation with her could be like Christmas morning. A huge adventure in unwrapping Amy. The thrill of a sneak peek prompted him to continue questioning. He racked his memory for situations he thought of as kinky and asked, Do you want me to gag you? She hesitated. I dont think so. Not yet. I need to be able to talk to you. Her words, small and vulnerable, hit him hard. Again. The phantom pain sobered him

somewhat, gave him a line to climb up from the quicksand pit of want. Do you think youre going feel unsafe? He watched for any truth that might hide behind her lips. She shook her head. He didnt see any hesitation in her eyes. Do you? she asked. Did he? The question surprised him. Mac glanced away, disentangling himself from the power her face held over him. He rubbed his hand over his chest but couldnt placate the anxious thud of his heart. Did she make him feel unsafe? Hed asked the question with the intention of determining whether she felt threatened. It took on a different meaning redirected toward himself. Was he a threat? An unsafe, dangerous element in her life? The earlier thrill of spanking her was

not a thrill hed wanted to experience. He doubted his self-control. In that sense, yeah, he felt unsafe. He was the predator. She, with her fragile wrists and big unsuspecting eyes, would crumple beneath him if he attacked. He had to touch her. Careful to touch, not attack, he went to his knees on the floor and pulled her from the sofa. Taking her by the thighs, he guided her over to sit astride his lap. The position opened her up to him; the fragrance of her arousal was a drug. Tell me your fantasy, he commanded, shifting to brace the small of her back against the edge of the seat behind her. She flushed and averted her eyes. She still held onto his shirt. He caught her hand and pulled the cotton from her grasp, discarding it on the floor. Look at me when Im asking for your

attention, Amy. Her stomach flattened as she exhaled a long breath. Her eyelashes fluttered reluctantly, but eventually she met his eyes. He kissed the corner of her mouth and murmured, Good. I dont know how to start, she whispered. Start with yesterday. I lost you somewhere in the studio. I want to know where you went. He nosed behind her ear, seeking the fragrance of shampoo and skin, the heat of her pulse. Her hands moved restlessly against his chest and eventually found their way to his shoulders. Amy, he persisted after several minutes passed. She shifted her weight. Im uncomfortable. I know. Itll get easier. To ease the physical strain of her position, he cupped her hips and drew her higher onto his lap, giving her room to

move her legs and brace her feet on the floor. She made use of the new arrangement by pressing up against his belt buckle. Mac smiled and kissed her ear. Tell me. Amy buried her face against his chest. Hiding behind him, not from him. He slid his arms around her waist, squeezed her close, and bit her shoulder. She shivered and confessed, When I was in the photo shoot, I pretended you were behind me with all those toys, and that camera. You wanted me to pose and photograph you? Yes. No. Her breath caught and turned the words choppy. Then what? I wanted you to expose me, she whispered. The admission drew him up, startling in its

similarity to his own desire to get past her mask. Amy had given him her heart and body, but never such free, uninhibited access to her body. Hed never experienced this rush of complete, unlimited license to explore and provoke reaction from her. Im going to. This weekend, she whispered. Yeah. But that wasnt going to be soon enough, not now that he had the idea in his head. Mac pushed her fingers against his fly. Unzip me. Amy complied without a moments hesitation. She lowered his zipper, laid the folds of denim aside, and stopped. The slick, swollen head of his cock poked through his underwear and nuzzled her wrist. Mac?

That brought his gaze back to hers. Wide, dark eyes welcomed him. The invitation was so tangible it robbed him of coherent thought for a moment, and it delayed his response. Eventually, he asked, Yes? Im having trouble breathing. How had he missed the shortness of her breath? The rapid rise and fall of her chest tightened his throat. Ill get your inhaler, he said, alarmed, and moved to shift her off his lap. She forestalled him. Its not that. ItsIve never been this hot before. He grinned and kissed her right breast, but rose to his feet nonetheless. Amy squeaked breathlessly as he swung her up into his arms and carried her across the room. Point me to the camera, he whispered against her ear.

Chapter Twelve
Later, Amy sprawled exhausted in their bed. Mac had covered her with sheets, but her skin was too sensitive for any covering and shed kicked them off. He sat beside her, his erection still spearing the air, and trailed his fingers up and down her back. Tell me what youre thinking, he said. Not thinking anything. Nothing at all? She smiled and rubbed her cheek against his thigh. My brain is mush. He chuckled. All the more reason you should tell me now what youre thinking. Youre not clever enough to disguise anything with doubleedged words. I dont use double-edged words, she said,

peeping up at him. Theyre just carefully chosen. Ill have to work on making you talk without screening yourself. Some men would give anything if their women would think before they talk. Im not some men. He finger-combed the hair away from her forehead. And I want you to talk to me about what you feel before you have a chance to overanalyze and second guess it. So tell me what youre thinking. She hid her face in the pillow. Mac pulled her hair gently, dragging her head up and forcing her to turn her cheek into the pillow instead. Dont hide from me, he reminded. Im afraid. Of me? Of saying the wrong thing.Sounding too

grateful or something. Like a kinky girl-toy who was only out to get spanked so she could get off on dirty sex. Mac cocked a thick eyebrow. Im starting to rethink my stance on kinky girl-toys, he teased. Tell me, thoughis this really about sex? She shook her head and lowered her lashes. No. Im just not sure how to articulate how I feel. Why not just say it? Because you might think its stupid. Amy, Ive known you forever. Ive witnessed every dumb thing youve ever done and I still love you. Im still here with you. Youre still the most precious gift Ive ever been given. Tell me. She curled her fingers around his, clinging to the rough calluses that marked his hands, and holding onto the security they provided. I was

thinking that Im really selfish, making you take on this role. Wondering whether I should apologize. You are selfish, but it doesnt change that I love you. I want to give you everything. I always have. If I can give you some kind of freedom this way, I will do my very best to give it completely. Why? Because your happiness is mine. She rolled toward him and propped herself against his thigh so she could kiss his stomach and nuzzle the dark hair that furred his abdomen. He smelled faintly of her body, but not enough. Make love to me? she asked shyly, rubbing her cheek against his hardness and flicking the tip of her tongue into his navel. He shuddered and she hid her smile against his stomach. No. He tugged on her hair again and threads

of desire uncoiled between her legs like marionette puppets responding to their masters touch. Who knew no would make her so hot, so fast? Amy hesitated. Should she insist? Accept his refusal quietly? Uncertain, she met his gaze. The slow, lazy heat in his eyes stopped her breath. Why not? she whispered. Because Im a little selfish too. Mac dragged her closer, shifting on the bed until his knee rose high between her legs. He splayed his fingers over the back of her head. And Ive recently recalled how good your mouth is. The tips of his thumb and middle finger pressed behind her ears, another pair of wicked response buttons that elicited a new surge of heat in her veins. His hand tensed, slid down to cup the nape of her neck. Amy barely had time to

suck in a breath before he pushed her mouth down onto the head of his cock. She opened up eagerly, determined to deliver a very sincere thank-you for his generosity. ###

About the Author Emily Ryan-Davis writes erotica and erotic romance. Follow her on Twitter @emilyryandavis and Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/emilyryandavis. For information about her other books and upcoming releases, visit http://www.scorchedsheets.com

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Table of Contents
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve

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