Ainsley shook her head and bore his punishment, wondering why his attention wasn’t having the usual effect of turning her on. Wondering why she felt so disjointed.


Then Bennett changed the configuration of the ropes and kept her bound in his bed, but added a blindfold for variety.

When he maneuvered her body how he preferred, she knew he’d fuck her however he preferred. As many times as he preferred.

The first time he fucked her mouth, angling her head off the bed so she could deep throat him. He came partially in her mouth, partially on her face.

No soothing touches in the aftermath. Usually he touched or kissed her mouth, murmuring how sexy her lips looked swollen from sucking his cock.

The second time he fucked her breasts. Pinching her nipples to the surprising edge of pain she craved that usually sent her soaring. But he’d stopped. He squeezed her breasts around his cock and slid his shaft faster and faster until he ejaculated on her chest. But again, no praise from her Dom, no promises that her compliance would be rewarded. It was all about him.

Ainsley drifted into a place where she almost could see the events happening from outside her body. She felt nothing. No pride, no shame, no excitement, no gratitude. None of the usual submissive high where she knew her acquiescence would please him. Where she knew her total surrender was prized by him and he’d gift her with an explosive orgasm.

The third time he fucked her pussy, bringing her leg straight up as he drove into her from the side. Keeping her blindfolded and bound. But he had fingered her clit, with almost clinical detachment, and got her off.

No sweet kisses, or whispered words or loving touching. Just fucking. His way.

The last time he’d brought her ankles up and attached them to her bound hands. She’d laid face down on the mattress, her body pinned like a butterfly, unable to move at all as he’d lubed her back channel with his fingers and then rammed his cock into her ass without pause.

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This was what she’d feared Bennett would become. Unyielding. Aggressive and unwilling to provide her with any type of comfort or explanation as he took what he wanted. Reinforcing to her what it meant to be submissive. Reminding her who had the power and the control.

The scenes had happened in such rapid succession, she had no idea how much time had passed when Bennett finally untied her.

If she’d had the strength in her legs, she might’ve run.

If she hadn’t been so confused by Bennett’s sudden change, becoming the caring Dom she recognized, she might’ve shaken off his loving touches. But he’d shown a Dom’s care. Massaging blood back into her limbs. Caressing the spots where the rope had abraded her skin. Running those rough hands over her body, not with punishment, but with reverence.

Ainsley’s instinct was to give into the sleepiness. She didn’t want to ask him what she’d done to deserve that treatment. He was accustomed to her reluctance to discuss a scene immediately after it ended. But this time she wouldn’t let it slide. She swallowed hard and managed to eke out one word. “Why?”

“So you’d know the difference.”

“Difference between what?”

He bestowed sweet kisses on her lips. “You accused me of usin’ you. What I did to you tonight? That was usin’ you. Has it ever been like that between us before?”


“And it won’t be again.”

She broke down completely. It was hard to be humbled. But she’d needed it. Needed a reminder of what Bennett really was—a dominant man to the bone. But he wasn’t a taker. He wasn’t a user. She’d signed on for this experience as his submissive. Bennett was who he was. A Dom. A teacher. A taskmaster. This was how he’d be to the next sub in line after their thirty days together ended. She’d never be special to him.

That made her sob harder.

“Come on, angel. Let it out. I’ve got you.”

Bennett’s hands were in constant motion over every inch of her bare skin. He nuzzled, touched and murmured to her. Using his entire being to soothe her.

But it didn’t help. When she began to shake, not even the inferno of his skin against hers warmed her. He practically carried her to the shower. Holding her beneath the blessedly hot water as the jets pummeled her sore muscles and the steam thawed her from the outside in.

And when the tremors ended, she let the last tears fall, feeling more vulnerable now than any other time with him.

Run. Get out of here now and don’t look back.

“I’m okay,” she lied in a whisper against his chest.

“You sure? We can stay in here as long as you need.”

“I’m sure.”

With those long, muscular arms, he grabbed towels hanging from the racks. He tied one turban-style around her head. Dried her thoroughly with the other, and wrapped a bath sheet around her body. He led her back into the bedroom and wrapped her with his robe before tucking her between the covers.

Bennett gathered her in his arms and piled another blanket on top of them.

“I’m still so cold.”

“You’re not cold. You’re shaken. And it’s my…” Resting his chin on the top of her head, he said gruffly, “Never mind. It’ll keep. Sleep.”

But she couldn’t sleep. When she wiggled out of his arms, he let her. When she crept out of his house a few hours later, he let her do that too.

Chapter Sixteen

“What’re you so pissy about today?”

Ben scowled at Quinn. “I’m not pissy.”

“Yeah, you always stomp around and throw shit.”

“Fine. I’m in a bad mood. Can we leave it at that and get this damn thing fixed?”

Quinn sighed. “This is beyond what either of us can fix.” He kicked the tire. “Let’s load it up and take it to D and F.”

Ben bit back a snarl. His brother might’ve said that, oh, an hour ago when they first started dicking with the ATV. “I’ll go get the trailer.” But when he got to the backside of the barn, he saw both tires were flat. “Son of a bitch.” They only had one spare. Which meant they’d have to take both tires off and see if they were salvageable.

A shadow appeared beside him. “Guess I shoulda checked that before now, huh?”

“Probably.” Ben pushed upright. “I’ll get the jack.”

The tire had settled into the ground on the opposite side, making Ben wonder when was the last time they’d used the trailer.

Out of the blue, Quinn said, “Is it woman trouble? Because only woman trouble puts a look like that on a man’s face. Trust me, I know.”

The jack clanked. “Why you doin’ this?”

“Doin’ what? Talkin’ to you? I’m pretty sure you ain’t talkin’ to nobody else about this.”

Ben grunted.

“Come on. You don’t gotta give me her name, but this is eatin’ at you, bro.”

Eating at him was putting it mildly. He’d had a hollow feeling in his gut that felt a lot like shame. “I did something…that didn’t seem wrong at the time, but now I’m feeling guilty about it.” He’d taken the harshest stance imaginable with Ainsley—a new sub—showing her what it really meant to be used. Using sex as punishment.

You think she might’ve been upset? Since she didn’t want you to touch her and she left in the middle of the fucking night?

What the fuck had he been thinking?

Because after seeing Ainsley’s flood of tears before she fled, he had an acute sense of failure. As a man. As a lover. As a Dom. For the first time ever, he’d questioned his actions. His rights as her dominant. Whether he’d tried to break a woman, instead of breaking through a woman’s barriers. Whether he’d been punishing her out of his frustration with her.

The fact he was so upset he couldn’t think straight, or concentrate, indicated he’d stepped over the line. And it sliced his guts to ribbons that she hadn’t said her safe word.


He looked up at Quinn. “Sorry. Did you say something?”

“Just wondering how long ago this happened?”

“Seems a helluva lot longer than just last night.”

Quinn crossed his arms over his chest. “Is that why you volunteered to take Libby to town last night? To meet up with her?”


“Man, you don’t give an inch. And people say I’m closemouthed? You’ve got me beat by a country mile. Have you tried talkin’ to her about it?”

“Not yet.”

“But you do plan to, right?”

Ben tossed the socket to the ground. “I guess.”

“That oughta go over well, if you’re as forthcoming with her as you’ve been with me,” Quinn said dryly.


“Look, I’m just gonna toss this out there. We guys expect women to carry the emotional load in a relationship. I’ve figured out things go to hell when I’m not doin’ my part to tell Libby how I feel. Then she gets upset and won’t talk to me. It’s a damn vicious cycle and an easy one to get into.”

Quinn had hit it dead on. Ben had been so adamant about Ainsley opening up, about sharing her feelings, both in and out of bed, that he’d neglected to share his own. He’d kept her at arm’s length emotionally, even while he demanded her absolute physical obedience.

Not only did that make him a bad Dom; that made him a bad man.

But he had no idea how to fix it. He sighed. “So got any advice, Q?”

“There’s nothin’ a sincere apology can’t fix, especially if you just started seein’ her, especially if you offer it up front. Then talk to her, really talk to her.”

The thought of opening up to her scared the crap out of him. He could handle her rejection of him as a Dom. But what if he let her see Ben and she rejected that part of him? The part he didn’t share with women who shared his bed? The side of himself that wasn’t the confident dominant? The guy who felt like an outsider even in his own family?