She began to quietly weep once more, each tear like a dagger to Tate’s heart.

Ignoring Tate, Damon carried her swiftly from the common room and Tate followed behind, feeling the stares of the entire room as they gazed at him in disgust.


Safe, sane, consensual. He’d managed to single-handedly violate all three hallmarks of the Dominant/submissive lifestyle. And now his beautiful wife had paid for his mistake. Just another in the dozens of times he’d failed her in their five-year marriage. Apparently he could do nothing right when it came to her, which made no sense given how much he loved her.

Damon carried Chessy down the stairs and then shouldered his way into his office and gently set her down on the leather sofa, pulling the ends of the blanket around her to shield her nudity. Her shoes had fallen off at some point and she looked fragile barefoot with only a blanket and her stockings to cover her body.

Tate went to his knees in front of the couch and tried to gather her hands in his, but she withdrew them, knotting them into fists in her lap so he couldn’t grasp them. She wouldn’t even meet his gaze but then he could hardly blame her.

“Chessy, I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “God, I’m sorry. I only stepped away a few seconds to answer a phone call. I’d already ended it when I heard you say your safe word.”

At that she met his gaze, her eyes cold enough to freeze an inferno. “So that’s what you were doing while I was being raped by the man you chose to dominate me? Taking a goddamn client call?”

Her words paralyzed him. The depth of his betrayal hadn’t truly sunken in until now. He’d stood by while a man hand-picked by him to be intimate with his wife had hurt her.

“I’m partly to blame,” Damon said quietly from just a few feet away from the sofa. “I gave Tate the names of several men I thought were good choices. There was nothing in the past to indicate James’s behavior tonight. The safety of my members—all of my members—is my top priority and I failed you tonight.”

Chessy shook her head vigorously. “No,” she said vehemently. “You aren’t to blame, Damon, and I won’t allow you to take any part of it. The person at fault here is me for trusting my husband to put me first in his priorities. For believing his promises that he’d change. I should have never allowed myself to be involved in this situation, and you can be assured I won’t ever again.”

Tate couldn’t breathe. A hand clutched mercilessly at his throat and squeezed until he was lightheaded from oxygen deprivation. Her words sounded so … final. They were no less than he deserved and yet panic still shattered his nerves. His life without Chessy? Unthinkable.

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A knock sounded and a moment later, Damon returned with Chessy’s clothing. She stared at the items, distaste in her wounded eyes. They were evidently a reminder that Tate had arranged this evening when she wanted to do nothing but forget.

Her lips trembled and she closed her eyes, her brow knitted in an effort to regain her composure.

“Tell me what you want to do, Chessy,” Damon said in a gentle voice. “I’ll have a car drive you wherever you want to go. Is there someone you’d like me to call for you?”

Tate bristled and was near to exploding as he whirled to confront Damon. “I will bring my wife home,” he said icily.

“I don’t recall consulting you in the matter,” Damon said. “You lost that option when you abdicated your responsibility as Chessy’s Dominant and allowed her to come to harm.”

Tate had no response to that, which only served to piss him off even more. His hands shook violently. He was rattled to his very core when he usually met each situation with calm and decisiveness.

“I’ll ride home with Tate,” Chessy said so softly Tate wasn’t sure he’d heard her right.

He was afraid to hope or read too much into her statement. She still wouldn’t look at him. As if she couldn’t bear the sight of him.

“Let me help you dress, baby,” Tate said gently. “Don’t worry about your shoes. I’ll carry you out to the car.”

She shook her head. “I can get dressed on my own. Just leave me be for a few minutes. I’ll come out when I’m done.”

Tate dug in his heels. “I need to make sure you’re all right and I need to see for myself just what that bastard did.”

“Do you care?” she threw out in a bitter tone.

His jaw clenched. “Of course I care. Goddamn it, Chessy.”

She waved her hand like she just wanted it over with.

“I’ll wait outside,” Damon said, leaving unsaid the fact that he’d wait to see if Chessy changed her mind about wanting him to see to her ride from The House. But it was implied in his tone.

As soon as Damon left the room, Chessy allowed the blanket to fall loosely away but hunched forward protectively as if she didn’t want Tate to see her. Tate immediately turned her on the sofa, swearing softly when he saw the welts on her back. There were already bruises forming at her hips where the ass**le’s hands had gripped her.

“How far did he take things?” Tate asked hoarsely.

She shrugged indifferently. “Far enough.”

He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. Chessy pinned him with the weight of her stare, her eyes accusing and utterly devastated. “Oh, I’m sorry, Tate. Have I annoyed you? How selfish of me that I’m not giving you my full attention.”

The heavy sarcasm in her voice made his heart sink. Self-loathing filled him, brimming in his heart until hatred was a living, breathing emotion in his soul. He was utterly sick at heart, knowing full well that he didn’t deserve forgiveness for what he’d done. For what he’d allowed to happen to her.