She looked at him for a long moment, hope stirring in her eyes. “How?” she whispered.

“It goes beyond a simple weekend,” he continued, briefly ignoring her question. “There’s a hell of a lot more I have to make up for and a weekend won’t do that. I have to start over, from the beginning, and make damn sure I never let you down again. Going forward you will be put first in everything, Chessy. I don’t expect you to believe it right away. I have to regain your trust and, God, I hope your love as well. I’m not letting you go without a fight.”

Chessy’s expression softened and she offered him the first smile he’d seen in so very long. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d smiled, and that hurt him. He couldn’t look back and pinpoint a time. And now he realized just how long she’d been miserably unhappy. He’d ignored it. Ignored the signs, so wrapped up in his job and ensuring his business grew and flourished after his partner had bailed. All at the expense of the one person he loved most in the world.

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“I do love you, Tate. So very much. I’ve never stopped loving you.”

“Thank God,” he whispered fervently, relief pouring over him.

“I don’t want to leave you,” she said as fervently as he had. “That was never an option for me. I hope I never gave you that impression. God, it’s the very last thing I ever want. I can’t imagine my life without you—your love. I just want … us … back. That’s all I want. Your dominance, your love, your priority. That isn’t too much to ask, is it? Am I being selfish? I’ve fought with myself for two years, feeling guilty—and selfish—for craving your attention and love when I knew you were working so hard to keep your business going. But I can’t do it anymore. I don’t care if I sound selfish. I want us back!”

He pulled her into his arms, praying she didn’t resist. He hugged her tightly, wrapping his arms around her, encompassing her until she was fully against him, her soft body molded to his. Finally she relaxed against him, her rigidity gone. She let out a soft sigh and rested her cheek against his chest.

“You aren’t being selfish,” he said fiercely. “Everything you’ve said is what I should have been giving you. It’s my failure, not yours. I swear to you, Chessy, everything is going to change starting now. I know I f**ked up our anniversary night, but I want a do-over. Everything starts now. We have the weekend just to ourselves. I’m turning my goddamn phone off. I don’t give a f**k about business. Not if it means I don’t have you.”

He pulled her gently away so he could look into her eyes, judge her decision. They were full of hope—and relief.

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“Baby, I know a weekend can’t fix what’s between us. I know I have to regain your trust and faith in me and that’s going to take longer than a few days, but I swear to you that if you give me the chance, I’ll get us back. That’s what you said you wanted, wasn’t it?”

Slowly she nodded.

“Then that’s what I’m going to work on,” he vowed. “It—and you—will be my foremost priority. I know you’ll have to wait and see to judge my sincerity, but I will not give you any reason to doubt where you are on my priorities from this point forward.”

Then she smiled and he couldn’t breathe. It was so radiant, lighting up the room. His old Chessy, the one who sparkled and shone just by being was back, even if just for a moment. The light that he’d effectively stomped out repeatedly over the last while. God, all he wanted to do was take her to bed and make love to her.

“That’s all I want, Tate,” she whispered. “Just you. Nothing else. I don’t care about money and financial security if I don’t get to enjoy it with the man who holds my heart.”

The man who holds my heart.

The sheer magnitude of that statement was humbling. He very nearly went to his knees in front of her to beg her forgiveness all over again.

“Kiss me,” he whispered, so choked up he could barely get the words out.

He gently cupped her face, framing it in his hands, and he lowered his mouth to hers, drinking in her sweetness and the sweet little sigh she breathed into his mouth.

He stroked her cheeks, caressing, unable to get enough of simply touching her, tangling his hands in her wayward curls.

“Will you make love with me, Chessy? Right here and now? Let me seal my promise to you?”

Her intake of breath was swift and her gaze lifted to his, hazy with desire, her pupils dilated in familiar fashion. Thank God she still wanted him. That her heart was big enough for forgiveness. He didn’t suffer any illusion that another woman would have walked away a long time ago. But his girl had a heart the size of the state they lived in.

“I want that,” she whispered, leaning her cheek into his palm as if seeking his touch. “So much, Tate.”

He slid one arm underneath the bend of her legs and then anchored his other around her waist, effortlessly lifting her to cradle her in his arms.

For a long moment, all he did was stare into her eyes, absorbing her acceptance like a parched desert soaking in its first rain in months.

And then he slowly walked toward their bedroom.

SIX

CHESSY relaxed her body against Tate’s, absorbing his strength, his solid, muscled frame as he walked them through the doorway of their bedroom. She rested her head on his shoulder and splayed her fingers out across his chest just below the hollow of his throat.

How many weeks—months—had she yearned for this? To be made love to, with or without all the accouterments of dominance, by her husband. Her entire heart, body and soul ached for him. To reconnect in the most intimate of ways, to say with their bodies all they couldn’t say with mere words.

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