He and Dash went way back. As had their relationship with Carson, Joss’s first husband. Only Jensen was new to the mix, but all evidence pointed to him being a solid addition to the close-knit group of friends. He made Kylie happy, and of all people, Kylie deserved happiness.

“I’m sure they aren’t worried,” Tate said in a reassuring tone. “The fact that they haven’t heard from you is good, wouldn’t you think? If things had gone badly, you would have called them. I’m sure they take silence as a good thing. They likely think we’re still in bed, and were it not for the fact that I promised you a do-over of dinner, that’s exactly where we would be right now.”

Her cheeks turned a delightful shade of pink and her eyes blazed with quick desire. It made him want to haul her right out of the restaurant and not stop until they were back home in their bed, her naked and underneath him.

“You’re right,” she admitted. “They were just so worried about me.” Her features twisted and she grimaced with her admission. “Lord knows I gave them cause to worry. I seriously thought my marriage was over.”

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Tate’s gut clenched and it took everything he had to sit there in a semblance of a relaxed posture as she stated so matter-of-factly that she’d thought their marriage was over. Unable to keep from touching her, he reached for her hand and lifted it to his mouth, pressing a tender kiss to the inside of her palm.

“Never that, baby. I can only say, again, how sorry I am for not putting you first. But I won’t make that mistake again.”

“Let’s not rehash it all over again,” she said, her lips in a determined line. “Let’s put it behind us where it belongs and start over from right here and now.”

“Now that sounds like an excellent plan,” he said in satisfaction. “Would you like dessert? I know what I want, and it’s not on the menu.”

She flushed again as she let her hand drop from his hold. Then she shook her head. “I’d rather go home,” she whispered.

Tate held up a hand for the distant waiter before the words were fully out of her mouth. He handed the server his credit card and watched as he hurried away to total the bill. He drummed his fingers impatiently on the table as he waited for the check to return. The minute the waiter reappeared, Tate scrawled the tip, added it to the amount and then hastily signed the slip, shoving it aside as he stood.

He hovered over Chessy, helping her to her feet as she collected her purse, and then he guided her toward the exit to the parking lot where he ushered her into the passenger seat of his car.

He immediately reached for her hand, anchoring it to his in the console between the two seats. Something so small and seemingly insignificant as her touch was something he’d missed. Not until now had he realized just how much he’d missed seeing her, talking to her, touching her. No amount of money or financial security was worth the loss of her love.

“I love you,” he said, glancing briefly in her direction.

Her warm smile of complete happiness took his breath away.

Already he was planning their evening at home. Reasserting his dominance was something he knew she wanted but was difficult for him. Because for all practical purposes it should be him on his knees in supplication before her, begging her forgiveness all over again, not her kneeling in submission before him.

But his dominance was not something she just wanted. It was a need. For both of them. And getting back to the roots of their relationship was essential for peace of mind for both of them. It was important that Chessy felt safe and secure in their marriage once more. Tate would do whatever necessary to ensure her happiness.

When they pulled into the concrete drive, Tate came to a stop outside the garage where Chessy’s Mercedes SUV was parked and he cut the engine.

When she would have opened her door to get out, he squeezed her hand to hold her in place.

“Go inside to the bedroom. Undress and kneel on the carpet in front of the fireplace and wait for me,” he said, injecting a note of authority into his tone.

Her eyes widened, hope spreading like wildfire through her expression, and then her eyes became half-lidded as smoldering desire replaced her momentary surprise. She expelled a soft sigh, one of relief as though she’d waited for just this event. The moment when he retook the reins in their relationship. Shame crawled up his neck and spread over his chest, tightening until he could barely draw breath. No wife, regardless of whether she was in a position of submissiveness or not, should ever be faced with a failure of a husband.

When he loosened his grip on her hand, giving her silent permission to go, she fumbled with her seatbelt and hurriedly got out of her seat. He followed her up the short sidewalk to their front door and unlocked it before pushing it open for her to precede him.

He purposely delayed, giving her time to go into the bedroom and ready herself. And well, he had to mentally prepare himself for what lay ahead because it was difficult for him to be commanding and authoritative when all he wanted was to cherish her, wrap her in his tenderness and make up for all the pain he’d caused her.

While he could bring himself to command her and to delight in her submissiveness, there was no way in hell he’d touch her precious skin with a crop or his hand. Even the beauty of pleasurable pain had lost its luster and for the time being he couldn’t swallow the thought of indulging in something that had before always brought them immeasurable satisfaction. There would be no blurring the line between pleasure and pain tonight. He wanted only to bring her pleasure. To reestablish their emotional connection by reforging the physical bonds between them.

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