Her bottom lip disappeared between her teeth as she shifted her weight up. She grasped the base of his dick and suddenly he was engulfed by her heat. Her silky softness was surrounding the head. He’d never felt anything so goddamn perfect in his life.

“That’s it,” he encouraged. “Take more of me. Nice and slow.”


She began lowering herself down, inch by exquisite inch, gliding like hot velvet, clutching at him like a fist. When she was halfway there, her eyes widened and she glanced down in consternation.

“I’m not sure this is going to work,” she said shakily.

He smiled, willing himself not to arch up into her. He wanted to bury himself as deeply as he could go, but he forced himself to breathe through the urge and remain still until she was able to accommodate him.

“It will work. Touch yourself with your other hand. You need to be a little wetter. You’re so tight, baby. God, you feel so good.”

She obeyed, kneeling up astride him as she began to stroke her clit. She made a humming sound of pleasure and she closed her eyes. He felt the burst of dampness around his dick, felt her open, sucking him deeper.

She slid down another inch, causing them both to groan. He was almost there. So close.

And then she settled her full weight down on him, taking him completely.

She gasped, her eyes widening at the sudden fullness. It was overwhelming to him too. He clenched his jaw, fighting his release with every ounce of strength he possessed.

“Ride me, baby. Do what feels good to you. I want you to come. Touch yourself if you need to. Whatever you need. You’re so beautiful. I’ve never seen a more gorgeous sight than you astride me.”

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She moved restlessly, rocking forward and then back. After a few tentative movements, she found a comfortable rhythm and she began moving up and down, lifting herself up and then allowing herself to slide back down his erection.

His dick was coated with her honey. Slick with her arousal and his precum. Each time she took him deep, he was surrounded by the lush warmth of her pussy.

It was a sight to behold, this small, curvy woman perched atop his much larger frame. Her hair streamed over her shoulders, playing an erotic game of peek-a-boo with her nipples.

The idea that he was her first lover, the first man she’d trusted enough to make love with, staggered him. He was humbled by such a precious gift. It was one he’d cherish the rest of his life. One he’d protect with his very life.

“I’m close,” she said with a gasp. “I want you with me.”

“I’ll always be with you, baby. Come for me. I’ll catch you. Just let go.”

She leaned forward, bracing her palms on his chest, and she began to move faster, taking him deep and hard. Her breaths were ragged, her face flushed with heat and arousal.

His release swelled, growing like an impending thunderstorm. He felt her convulse around him, squeezing him tightly as she cried out in the throes of her orgasm. It spurred his own. He was helpless to do anything but arch into her, over and over, his entrance made easier as his release coated her passageway.

His vision blurred. The room dimmed around him until there was only her. She was all he saw, all he felt, all he knew. His arms strained against the ropes holding him down. He reached for her, desperate to hold her, touch her.

She sagged forward, her chest heaving, her breaths coming in ragged spurts over his chest. He was still wedged firmly inside her, still hard, achingly so. He was hypersensitive, still pulsing, each little wiggle from her eliciting another wave of ecstasy.

He waited, his patience fraying. He waited for her to untie him so he could hold her. So he could touch her and share in the aftermath of something wild and beautiful and innocent.

Finally she lifted herself up, her br**sts hovering temptingly in his line of vision. They were, as she was, exquisite perfection, her ni**les a delicate pink. His mouth watered at the idea of tasting her. Of sucking the rigid peaks into his mouth.

She reached over his head to pull at the bindings around his wrists. And when he was finally free, he wrapped his arms around her tightly, ignoring the stinging discomfort in his numb hands.

He rolled, bringing them to rest on their sides, him still penetrating her. He didn’t pull free. He wanted to stay connected, to keep the intimacy thick around them.

He kissed her hungrily, his h*ps rocking back and forth against her. And then, realizing what he was doing, he stilled, an apology poised on his lips.

As if knowing what he was thinking, she put a finger to his mouth.

“It’s all right,” she whispered. “I know you won’t hurt me.”

He closed his eyes and gathered her close. But he was careful to remain still inside her. He’d vowed to give her absolute control. If and when they made love without him being restrained, it would be at her doing. Not his.

“I love you,” he whispered against her ear. “I’ve never loved anyone more.”

She nestled further into his embrace, her mouth pressed against the column of his neck.

“I love you too, Jensen. Thank you for sharing yourself with me tonight. For trusting me with your demons.”

Left unsaid was that she had yet to confide her demons to him, but he didn’t take it personally nor did it anger or disappoint him. What she’d given him tonight was infinitely more precious. She’d given him the gift of herself. That would always be enough for him.


JENSEN came awake with a gasp, his heart thudding violently in his chest. Sweat poured down his forehead and he sat straight up, his pulse like a hammer in his ears. He immediately sought out Kylie, relief blowing sweet through his veins when he saw she was sleeping undisturbed beside him.

He eased back against the pillow, nausea sharp in his stomach. He blew his breath out through his nostrils and then sucked steadying air back in as he willed the violent images to go away.

He closed his eyes, as if that would shield him from the memories. Of his mother being beaten while he screamed and cried for his father to stop hurting his mama. Oh God, he just wanted it to go away. He wanted peace. He didn’t want to be that little boy any longer, incapable of preventing a monster from abusing his mother.

He wished to hell he hadn’t told Kylie of his past. That he’d left it tightly covered, suppressed under years of practiced control. He clenched his hands, curling his fingers into tight fists before relaxing them again, flexing in an effort to relieve some of the horrible tension coiling through his body.

It sickened him, the memories. He wanted nothing more than to banish them from his mind forever. But it wasn’t possible. He’d opened the door and there was no going back. There was nothing more for him to do than to deal with it all over again and begin the painful process of suppression once more.

How could he ever be good for Kylie when he hadn’t even been able to protect his own mother? How could she possibly trust in him after all he’d told her?

He stared at her in the darkness, watching the soft rise and fall of her chest. He ached to touch her but he held back because violence still simmered in his consciousness and he didn’t want that to touch her even peripherally. He wouldn’t have her awaken and be frightened, didn’t want her climbing from a nightmare and fearing his touch.

He turned his gaze back to the ceiling, giving up all hope of sleeping tonight. Pain burned brightly in his soul, the ache fiercer than it had been in a very long time. If baring one’s soul was supposed to be so freeing then why did he feel imprisoned all over again?


KYLIE felt on top of the world Monday morning when she rode to work with Jensen. Optimism, an alien concept to her until now, simmered in her mind.

So she hadn’t been able to make love to Jensen without him being tied to the bed. Yet. But they had made love! That was a huge step for her.

She was . . . happy. When was the last time she could say that and really mean it? Her old version of happiness was merely a shell, a code word for simply existing. It wasn’t until she got involved with Jensen that she realized just how much of her life was passing her by while she kept her head firmly in the sand.

The weekend had been utter bliss. They hadn’t made love again since Friday night, and both seemed reluctant to push too hard and too fast, but the intimacy had grown around them to such an extent that Kylie knew it wouldn’t be long before they took the plunge again.

And maybe this time she’d pluck up the courage not to tie Jensen up for the act.

She’d been worried about Jensen after he’d confided about his childhood to her, but other than being a little quieter than normal Saturday morning, he didn’t seem to be much worse for the wear.

She’d purposely kept the mood and tone light between them, not wanting him to go back to the blackness of his past. She’d told him she loved him countless times and had been openly affectionate with him.

She hadn’t chosen to confide in him about her childhood, not because she didn’t trust him, but because him confiding his had taken a huge toll on him emotionally and she hadn’t wanted to add to it. In time, she’d get around to it. When the moment was right. She wasn’t looking forward to it, but neither was she avoiding it at all costs.

Dealing with it. That’s what she was doing and would do. With Jensen’s help. His love and support. What else could she ask for?

Toward noon, Dash stuck his head in her office.

“Can I come in?” he asked from the doorway.

She motioned him forward. “Of course. What’s up?”

He sat in one of the chairs, the same one Jensen had occupied seemingly a lifetime ago when she’d pondered getting rid of them. Now? She didn’t mind the intrusion of either him or Dash in her office. Especially Jensen.

“You’re looking good, Kylie. You look happy.”

She blinked in surprise, discomfort crawling up her spine at the personal note the conversation took. But sincerity was clearly etched on Dash’s handsome features so she shoved aside her instinct to clam up. It’s what she would have done in the past, no doubt. But she was trying on the new Kylie for size. Someone who could open up more to her friends. To people in general.

She’d never be the bubbly, friendly breath of fresh air that Chessy was. Nor would she ever be as sweet and loving as Joss. But they were rubbing off on her just as Jensen was, and she found herself more relaxed around her circle of friends. More willing to let her guard down. At the very least, she wanted to lose the bitchy, abrasive aspect of her personality. Things she’d used as a defensive mechanism before.

“I am happy,” she said simply.

“Joss wanted me to invite you and Jensen over this Friday. Chessy and Tate will be coming too. Nothing fancy. She’s itching to cook a good meal and have our friends over.”

Heat surged into Kylie’s cheeks and she dropped her gaze, ashamed of how her last trip to Dash’s house had gone.

“I’d like that,” Kylie said in a low voice. “I’m sure Jensen would too. And Dash, I know I apologized to Joss, but I’ve never really apologized to you for how I reacted when you told me Jensen was becoming your partner.”

“Already forgotten,” Dash said, his voice warm. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt Joss. I was pretty pissed at the time, but I know your heart, Kylie. And I know you love Joss and would never intentionally hurt her.”

“I’m trying to be a better friend. A better person,” she amended. “I know I’m not always easy to love.”

She said the last with a grin, marveling that she could even joke about matters she was normally extremely sensitive about.

Dash chuckled. “Well, neither am I. I think we all know that by now. But I also want to offer you an apology.”

She lifted her gaze again, her eyebrows rising in confusion. “Whatever for?”

“For taking advantage of you.”


“You work hard. Damn hard. And Jensen’s right. You’re more than capable of contributing more to this company than just your duties as our administrative assistant. I read over the proposal you prepared for the S&G contract. I was very impressed.”

She blushed, uncomfortable with the sincere praise. But extremely pleased as well.

“Those were Jensen’s ideas as well. I can’t take the full credit.”

“But that’s Jensen’s job,” Dash said dryly. “I’d expect as much from him. I’m only sorry it took his prodding to wake me up to the fact that you would be an invaluable asset as a partner.”

She smiled. “It’s okay, Dash. I wouldn’t have been ready before. I didn’t have enough confidence in myself. But I will. I’m working on it. I certainly won’t turn down such an opportunity or challenge. But I don’t want anything given to me that I haven’t earned. And I want to earn your and Jensen’s approval and eventually perhaps a partnership as well.”

“You have my approval, Kylie. You always have. You have my confidence as well and certainly Jensen’s. He recognized your abilities right away, something I’m ashamed to say I didn’t.”

“He’s good like that,” she said with a soft smile, warmth flooding into her mind at the thought of Jensen and how much he believed in her when she wouldn’t believe in herself.

“I’m very happy for you,” Dash said, his voice going quieter. “I know it hasn’t been easy for you since Carson died. I miss him too. He was my best friend. He—and you—are family.”

She swallowed the knot in her throat, proud of the way she maintained her composure when her brother was mentioned. She truly was making progress. She’d come so far in just a few weeks. Thanks to Jensen.

She knew she couldn’t fully credit him with her progress. She’d done a lot on her own. She had to. No one could make her do so but herself. She had to be willing to move forward, and until recently she hadn’t been. But Jensen had definitely kick-started her way down the path. Without him she’d still be hiding from the world, going through the motions of each day and not living. Truly living.