Patience, Dash. Don’t blow this, man. Not when you’re so f**king close. You’ve waited too long for this.

He tempered his eagerness and took his time gathering the plates and bringing them to the table where Joss sat. She just looked . . . right. In his house, wearing his clothes, still slightly rumpled from just coming from bed, even with her hair blow-dried from her shower. The only thing that would make it better is if she’d just come from his bed.


Soon enough.

He slid the plate in front of her, watching her eyes widen, a broad smile curving her lips.

“My favorite,” she said huskily.

He smiled back at her. “Of course. Did you think I’d serve you anything else? Waffles with lots of butter and even more syrup. Dig in and enjoy. I’ll bring back milk and the bacon.”

She sighed. “I do love them but I can’t indulge often. Too many calories!”

He shook his head as he returned again with their drinks and the plate of bacon. “There isn’t a thing wrong with the way you look, Joss. Utter perfection from the top of your pretty head to the tip of those pretty pink toes you sport.”

She flushed, her cheeks going a shade of pink that nearly matched those toes.

“I don’t know how to take this . . . this change in our relationship. I’m off balance. Just yesterday I was planning to let go of you much the way I had to let go of Carson. And now . . .”

She lifted her hand in bewilderment and let it fall back to her lap.

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“That wasn’t happening,” he said mildly. “You may have thought you were getting rid of me, honey, but I’m not going anywhere. I would have waited for as long as it took, but there was never a question of me making a move. You just happened to make it first.”

He watched her process his declaration, the brief furrow of her brows as they knitted in consternation. As though she was still trying to understand everything he’d dumped on her in the last twenty-four hours. And then she lowered her gaze, effectively putting an end to her silent contemplation.

She dug into her waffles and he watched, savoring her enjoyment over the breakfast he’d prepared for her. She ate as she did everything else. Artlessly. No self-consciousness. She was a woman unafraid to show her pleasure over even the simplest things. And he intended to bring her a hell of a lot more pleasure than waffles for breakfast. He had in mind a hundred ways he wanted to spoil her.

“Now, you wanted to know how this works. What exactly do you mean?” he asked.

Her fork stilled in midair on its way to her mouth. Then she lowered it, licking her lips in agitation.

“You have to know, I mean you do know now, that I’m completely new to this. I told you the things I wanted, but you haven’t told me what you want. How you expect this to work. What you’ll want of me. What you’ll do to me.”

She shivered as she said the last, and he hoped she was imagining all those things he’d do to her. And that those images intrigued and aroused her as much as they did him.

“I think the question is, what do you want me to do to—with—you.”

Impatience flared in her eyes, an emotion he was well acquainted with.

“Dash, please. Don’t play games with me. This is important.”

At that his expression became utterly serious. He leaned forward, his gaze boring into her.

“This is no game, Joss. Don’t think that even for a minute. What I feel for you, what I want to do to you, is no game. Not by a long shot.”

“Then help me out here,” she said in a pleading tone. “I’m lost without a road map. I need your honesty. I need to know what you’re thinking. I need to know how you see this playing out.”

“I think,” he said carefully, “that if we are to get into the particulars of our relationship, I’d prefer to do it in the living room where I can at least be touching you when I tell you my expectations and you outline your own.”

“And what if I don’t know what it is I want?”

He could sense her frayed nerves. He knew she was precariously close to cracking. No matter his impatience, no matter his urgency to claim what he wanted and had wanted for a damn long time, she needed delicate handling and all the reassurance he could grant her while still remaining firm. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—allow her to slip through his fingers when he finally had her exactly where he wanted her.

“You know, honey,” he said gently. “You were clear enough last night. Just because you’re no longer dealing with a stranger doesn’t mean that things change. If anything, you should be much freer and without inhibitions with me. I want to know every single thing that’s going on in that pretty head of yours. And you’ll get everything in mine as well. That I can guarantee.”

She rose, simmering with impatience—and nervousness. “Then let’s do it. I want to know. I need to know before I make any decisions.”

He caught her hand, pulling her into his side, wanting simply to touch her as he’d wanted to from the moment she’d entered his kitchen. He caressed her cheek and watched her eyes go warm with pleasure. It was a look he’d savor the rest of his life. Because she saw him. Finally, she saw him.

He guided her into the living room and sat down first on the leather couch before pulling her down and into his arms. She stiffened for a moment and he simply waited. Then she relaxed and melted into his arms, laying her head on his shoulder.

He could smell the scent of his shampoo, could feel a slight dampness that hadn’t been removed when she’d blow-dried her hair after her shower. He liked his scent on her. If he had his way, she’d smell like him all the time. His. He closed his eyes, savoring the moment—and the thought—that finally, she would be his. No, she hadn’t yet voiced her decision but he wondered if she knew he could see acceptance in her eyes already.

She was nervous, yes, but he also saw the agreement simmering in those gorgeous blue eyes. Anticipation licked up his spine. Spread out from his groin until his balls ached with it.

She tilted her head up so she could see him and then to his surprise, she touched him. Grazed her fingertip over his jaw. It was as soft as a butterfly’s wing and yet he felt it all the way to his soul. It scorched a path over his skin, his entire body alive with pleasure at her touch.

“Tell me, Dash. Be honest with me. What will it mean to belong to you? What do you expect of me? I need to know these things. I need to know what I’m supposed to do. What you want me to do.”

“It will mean . . . everything,” he breathed out. “To me and I hope to hell to you as well. You’ll be mine, Joss. In every sense of the word. Mine and no other’s. I will take care of your every need. Provide whatever you could possibly want. In return for your submissiveness, I’ll give you the f**king world on a platter. I’ll cherish you, protect you, spoil and pamper you endlessly.”

“That sounds like a pretty awesome deal for me. But what about you, Dash? What do you get?”

“You,” he said simply. “Just you, Joss. And believe me when I say that’s enough. It’s all I want. It’s all I need. Just you.”

The yearning in her eyes took his breath away. She hadn’t exaggerated. She’d been as lonely and as aching as he had been the last three years.

“And what will you do to me?” she whispered. “How will you exert your dominance? And do you want my submissiveness only in bed or will it extend out of the bedroom as well?”

“What would you prefer?” he asked, turning the question back on her.

She shook her head, her lips forming a tight, determined line. “I already told you what I wanted. It’s time for you to give me an idea of what you have in mind. I want it all, Dash. No sugarcoating. I want to know exactly what you want.”

“I want everything, Joss. And by that I mean I want your complete obedience in and out of the bedroom. I’ll call the shots. You might think I’m caging you, but honey, it will be the most gilded cage in the world and there won’t be a woman on earth who is more cherished or spoiled than you.”

She sucked in her breath, her eyes widening.

“Now, I think what you’re asking and what you want to know relates to the more physical aspects of our relationship. Am I right?”

She nodded, her cheeks turning that delightful shade of pink again.

“I like complete submission, but surrender is more than just physical surrender. It’s complete emotional surrender as well. And in some ways, emotional surrender is much more powerful and a much more precious thing to be given. It’s an honor, and I don’t say that lightly. A woman can give her body and never share her heart, her mind, her very soul. But a woman who gives freely of both body and mind is the most precious of gifts to receive. I don’t fool myself into thinking that at any time the women I’ve been with—have dominated—have given me anything but their body. And I was okay with that, because they didn’t have my heart either. We shared our bodies and nothing more.”

He paused a moment, allowing her to absorb his heartfelt words. Watched as she processed them, her eyes reflecting a myriad of emotions. Then he touched her, much like she’d touched him, running his fingertip lovingly down the line of her jaw and finally to brush across the softness of her lips.

“With you, Joss, it will be so much different. So much better. So much more. Physically? I’ll want complete and unfettered access to your body. It will be mine to do with as I please. Bondage, spankings, there are no limits. I like to inflict pain, pleasurable pain. Pain can be the sweetest of pleasures if given in the right manner. There is nothing more that I wish than to see my marks on you. The blush of red after I’ve flogged your sweet ass. I want to tie you up so that you are completely helpless and at my mercy, but honey, I’ll have the most tender of mercies with you.”

Her eyes had glazed, going dark and swirling with desire. He knew he was speaking to the heart of her. Every single thing she’d fantasized about, she’d dreamed about and ached for, he was going to give her. And he’d enjoy every damn minute of making all her fantasies reality.

He dropped his hand down the curve of her neck until it rested just over the beat of her heart.

“Emotionally? I want your heart. Your soul. Your complete and absolute trust and your surrender. I want your gift of submission and I’ll cherish it as I cherish you. I’ll respect it and never give you cause to regret your decision. That’s the promise I make you.”

She stared at him in bewilderment, her eyes flashing, shadows lurking in the hollows. “How did you know? How could you know, Dash? How can you see what I’ve only been able to see myself lately? How could you possibly reach into my head and know?”

He smiled and kissed her brow, running his hand around and then up and down her back, reveling in the feel of her in his arms. Finally in his arms.

“Because it’s what I want most too, honey. It’s what I’ve wanted for so very long. And I’ll make you another promise. I won’t rush you. I won’t overwhelm you. We have all the time in the world. Yours will be a gentle initiation into my world. Now that I know you can finally be mine, I intend to savor every moment.”

“You act as though I’ve already made my decision,” she murmured.

“Haven’t you? Perhaps you need time to justify it, but you’ve already made your choice, Joss. I saw it in your eyes when you walked into my kitchen this morning, and it was all I could do not to do a fist pump or something equally adolescent. You make me that way. Like a kid just gifted with his fondest desire. Birthday and Christmas all rolled into one.”

“I want—I need—to talk with Chessy and Kylie. Especially Kylie. She’ll be hurt by this. She won’t understand.”

Then her eyes widened in alarm and she glanced frantically at the clock above the fireplace.

“Oh my God, Dash! I have to call them! I completely forgot. I promised I’d call them. They were worried. Chessy said if she didn’t hear from me she was calling the police. I hope she hasn’t already!”

Dash chuckled. “Go call the girls. Tell them you’re in good hands. There’s plenty of time to explain to them later. But for now put them at ease. I’m glad you have such loyal, devoted friends. Our friends,” he amended. “And Joss, they will understand. If they love you—and they do—they’ll only want you to be happy.”

She surprised him again, this time framing his face in her hands and kissing him full on the mouth. Liquid pleasure rushed through his veins unlike anything he’d ever known. He allowed her free rein, held himself back and let her do the kissing, the exploring. And when she pulled away, her eyes were glazed with passion, surely a mirror of his own.

Oh yes, she saw him. He was filled with triumph and intense satisfaction. The blinders had come off, and she saw him, not as a friend, not as support, but as a man who wanted her with everything he had.

And she wanted him.

There would be many wonderful days ahead, but he’d always remember this one. Not that he harbored any idea that it would be easy and that they wouldn’t have obstacles to face and overcome. But they would get there. He’d make damn sure of it.

“I’ll be right back,” she said in a husky voice. “I just need to tell them I’m okay. And yes, I’ll explain everything to them later. They’ll want to know. For now I’ll just tell them that I backed out of The House. Kylie will be glad. She didn’t want me to go.”

“She worries about you,” he said.

“Yes, and she has good reason to fear the monsters of the world,” Joss said painfully. “She didn’t want for me what she had to endure for all those years. She fears dominance, control, abuse and being powerless.”