“Happy anniversary to my girl,” he said huskily. “I intended to give it to you Friday night, but we got … sidetracked.”

She caught her frown before it appeared. Just thinking back on their emotional, gut-wrenching anniversary night was enough to remove all her present joy. So she focused instead on here and now and the fact that her husband was back.


She reverently opened the wrapping, taking her time so she didn’t tear it. He chuckled as he watched her, shaking his head.

“I’ve never understood why you don’t just rip into it. It’s just paper, Chess.”

“But it’s beautiful paper,” she protested. “I hate to tear something so pretty.”

He laughed again but fell silent until she got to the box underneath. With shaking fingers, she opened the lid and shook out the velvet jewelry case inside. She sucked in her breath when she finally managed to reveal the contents.

Inside was a radiant, sparkling diamond bracelet that caught the light and twinkled brilliantly. She held it up, viewing it in awe, and tears burned the edges of her eyelids, making the bracelet blur in her vision.

“Ah hell, Chess. Don’t cry.”

She gave him a watery smile and then sniffled. “I can’t help it. It’s gorgeous, Tate! I love it. Put it on for me, please. My hands are shaking so badly I’ll never be able to get it latched.”

He laughed but complied, carefully looping the tennis bracelet around her left wrist. It made her look and feel decadent with the gorgeous diamond wedding ring and now an equally beautiful diamond bracelet. She felt as lit up as a Christmas tree.

When he was done, she held up her arm, twisting it this way and that, watching in fascination as it caught the light and sparkled just like the Christmas tree she’d just thought she resembled.

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Then she threw herself back onto his lap and kissed him ferociously. “I love it,” she said fervently. “I absolutely adore it! Thank you. You’ve made this the perfect anniversary weekend and Monday!”

A brief shadow crossed his face, as he no doubt remembered the inauspicious start to their anniversary. Sorrow and regret brimmed in his eyes before she kissed him again, soothing away the painful reminder to them both.

When she finally drew away, she remembered that he’d said he had two surprises.

“What’s the other surprise?” she asked, excitement once more bubbling to the surface.

He smiled and tenderly pushed a strand of her curly hair from her cheek. “It’s not immediate, rather it’s a surprise I’ve planned for us.”

“Oh, I like it when you say us,” she said dreamily. “What is it? Tell me, tell me!”

He chuckled. “My girl is so impatient.”

She mimicked strangling him by wrapping her fingers around his neck and adopting a ferocious scowl. “Stop holding out on me and spill.”

He kissed the tip of her nose and then pulled away so he could gaze into her eyes.

“I know it’s been a long while since we visited The House. So I’ve planned a night for us. Two weeks from now on a Friday night. I’ve even already hand-picked the man who will participate in our fantasy.”

Her pulse immediately began to race and she couldn’t control the surge of wicked anticipation that licked like flames over her skin. Images from the past, the immeasurable pleasure they’d both enjoyed, raced through her mind. Another man touching her, pleasuring her, at Tate’s behest. Under his command, always in control, stepping in only when Chessy neared her orgasm. Those belonged to him. It was one of the two things he wouldn’t allow another man. The other was that another man was never to kiss her on the lips. Some may think it was an odd “rule” but Chessy understood completely.

Kissing on the lips was decidedly more intimate than being kissed in other places. It signaled a more emotional connection, one only found between her and Tate.

“Is it someone I know?” she asked in a low voice. “I mean is it someone you’ve chosen before?”

He stroked her cheek. “Is my girl worried? We don’t have to do this, Chess. I wanted to do something special for you. For us. I know it’s something we enjoyed in the past and I’m just sorry that I’ve let it go as long as I have without giving you something that brings us both pleasure.”

“No, that isn’t it at all,” she denied. “I was merely curious. If I shouldn’t be asking or if you don’t want me to know, that’s fine. But when on earth did you have time to pull this all together? Did you plan it before our anniversary?”

She was genuinely curious to know whether he’d planned it before or after the debacle of their anniversary night.

“You have the right to know anything that affects you,” he said firmly. “To answer your question, no, this isn’t someone we’ve played with in the past. I spoke to Damon and he gave me a few names of men who didn’t mind playing the Dominant when in actuality I would be in total command of every aspect. I arranged to meet them this morning. It’s why my client meeting was so late in the day. I wish I could say that I had planned this prior to our anniversary. It’s something I should have been more aware of, and I’m sorry for that. But I picked a man I thought would give you the most pleasure while allowing me to dictate what he does and doesn’t do. When I showed him your picture I thought he was damn near going to swallow his tongue.”

He laughed as he said the last and Chessy smiled.