Authors: Jennifer Probst
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #BDSM, #Novella
Time stopped. Time passed.
She slumped in her chains, boneless. Gentle hands freed her from the bonds, and she was carried over to the chair. A warm blanket wrapped around her. Cara snuggled into the delicious warmth, the intoxicating scent of mint and cloves drifting to her nostrils. He rocked her, pressing kisses against her temple, hugging her tight. Cara fell into a cocoon of safety, and for the first time, connected with a part of her she hadn’t known existed. The part buried way deep inside, that still hung on to her negative thoughts, and fears. That hung onto the voices telling her she wasn’t good enough. And finally, Cara realized all was quiet inside her, like a temple of peace within her own body.
“I still love you,” she slurred, leaning her cheek against his shoulder. “I will always love you.”
Then she slept.
EM STARED AT THE CLOCK.
The night was officially over.
As if she sensed his thoughts, Cara shifted in his arms, muttering something under her breath. A smile touched his lips. God, she was beautiful. Always had been, but over the years, she’d ripened into a woman with strength and fortitude. She knew who she was, and it was the sexiest thing in the world. The way she submit to him last night would haunt him forever, and Rem wondered if he’d ever be able to accept any less. He’d be comparing all future women to Cara. The night that was supposed to banish her ghost had done the exact opposite.
Rem didn’t think he’d ever get over her.
She frowned in sleep and he bent his head to press a kiss in the deep furrow of her brow. She settled, and he studied the fall of her Titian hair, the gentle curve of her cheek, the swollen fullness of her strawberry lips. Finally, he knew what it meant for a woman to give him everything. She’d be wearing his marks today, and his dick immediately hardened at the thought. Last night, he’d rubbed cream into her skin, soothing away the sting, then fucked her again. Slow. Quiet. He commanded her not to make a sound, and it only made it more exciting. Watching her shatter around him with a soundless cry on her lips pushed him to the limit. The intimacy between them was more than he’d ever had with another woman after only a few precious hours. Rem craved to roll her over, spread her thighs, and thrust in deep. One last time to savor her orgasm; the bite of her nails; the throaty scream of his name breaking from her lips.
Instead, he had to say good-bye.
His chest tightened. Her raw honesty had carved a wound in his heart, but Rem understood so much more now. In his mind, he’d been doing his job. Taking care of his lover, his sub, giving her everything she needed. He assumed confidence and security and encouragement would help her blossom. But she’d been too young. How could he possibly blame her for trying to find her own way? Make her own mistakes? If they’d only met a few years later, Rem knew they’d probably would’ve been married and lived happily ever after.
Maybe it just hadn’t been fated.
He still hated her methods of leaving him, with only a note to torture himself with for years. But in the buried truth in his soul, Rem understood now. In her mind, there was no other way. If Cara had run back to him and tried to explain, Rem wondered if he would’ve done exactly what she was afraid of. Take her back, chain her with sex, and promise to make her happy.
He hadn’t seen what she really needed.
Grief beat through him. He’d failed her. And all these years hating her; loving her; twisted raw emotions that made no logical sense and pushed him to try and forget her, Rem realized he’d come full circle.
FANTA-C had brought them back together for a second chance.
But Rem couldn’t do it.
God, he wished they had a shot to start over. But the past was too big for him to get past. One night wasn’t enough to cleanse his soul and allow him to begin again. There was still too much disappointment for his inability to make her truly happy years ago. And who knows if he could ever make the new Cara happy? He didn’t know what she wanted or needed anymore. It was a blueprint for disaster.
Her husky voice raked across his ears. He stared down, stroking her tangled hair back from her face, and smiled. “Hey, sweetheart. How do you feel?”
“Good. Tired. Happy.” She smiled back. “Sated.”
“Then I did my job. I’ll run you a bath to soak your sore muscles.”
“Will you stay?”
He jerked back. His new Cara was ruthlessly, honest and direct. Pride filled him, along with a deep sadness that rivaled Eyore. He’d wanted to spoil her for a bit before walking away. But maybe this was better. Cleaner. How could he fight his instinct to make her his one more time? It would be too dangerous.
He may decide never to leave.
“No,” he said. “I’m not staying, Cara.”
She raised her chin. Those meadow green eyes glinted with resolve. “Why not? I’m asking you to please think about giving us a try. I want to know who you are today. I know we can never be what we were, Rem. I ruined that for both of us. But maybe we can be something even better.”
He couldn’t take the searing hope in her eyes, so he got out of bed and pulled on his jeans. “I can’t. Last night was special to me. Being with you again was amazing. But I failed you before, and damned if I’m going to do that again.”
Rem jerked back as a pillow hit his back. WTF?
She stood beside the bed, naked, shaking with anger.
“Don’t you dare give me that shit, Remington Steele!” she shot back. “You didn’t fail anyone. I was the one who ran away and chose not to talk to you. I can’t erase the past, but I’ll be damned if I allow you to blame yourself. You loved me well. I just wasn’t ready.”
His gaze narrowed. His dick hardened and throbbed. Holy shit, she was magnificent. Naked, trembling, eyes lit with fire, her white skin held an array of pinkish marks he’d put on her. “Don’t throw another pillow at me, woman. It was my responsibility to figure out if something bothered you. I should’ve known you were pulling away and unhappy. I have to live with that. I don’t want to hurt you, but this needs to end with last night.”
He shook his head. “What did you just say to me?”
In pure shock, he dodged the next pillow launched at his head. Cara was mischievous but never would’ve dared to throw something at him. “This doesn’t have to end unless you’re too much of a coward to try,” she said. “Don’t do what I did, Rem. Don’t run from this.”
Anger shook through him. How dare she question his motives and challenge his decision? With one yank, his jeans came back down. “Beg me for forgiveness, right now, Cara. Or you’ll regret it.” His Dom voice usually left her apologetic and a bit humbled.
This time, the third pillow hit his shoulder.
“Oh, I will, little girl. You asked for it.” She bit her lip, looking for an escape route. Adrenalin flooded his body and his cock was so damn hard it could cut stone. “Run, and it’ll be worse.”
Good. He was looking forward to this.
He launched himself across the bed and snagged her around the waist. Holding on to her wriggling, naked body, she screeched in protest as he threw her down and pinned her to the mattress. He held her wrists in one hand while he quickly donned the condom. Not wasting any time, he pushed her legs open with his thigh, and took her with one strong thrust.
“Fuck, you’re so wet,” he grit out. “This one’s for me, little brat.”
Rem fucked her hard and long, holding her arms above her head. This time, it was a simple claiming, a reminder of who was in charge and who she belonged to. In seconds, she was writhing beneath him, looking for more, her hard nipples stabbing against his bare chest in demand. Her pussy clenched around his dick and with one last plunge, he came hard, jerking his hips to spill the last of his seed, roaring her name in satisfaction.
Fully sated, he pulled out and slipped off the condom. Her body was flushed, and her arousal lay sticky on her thighs. Her clit peeked out, dying for attention.
He climbed off the bed and she sat up, eyes wide with astonishment. “What? You can’t leave me like this!”
He frowned. “I’d advise you to remember you got in this position for mouthing off. And throwing pillows.”
“Please, Rem. I need you.”
Her soft voice trembled with need, and her beautiful body was ripe for the plucking. Rem stood, feet braced apart, and motioned her.
“On your knees. Show me how much you need me.”
Cara scrambled off the bed and dropped to her knees. Her gaze trained on him, she waited for permission. Satisfaction cut through him. She was so perfect. Finally, he nodded. “Suck my cock. Make me come again.”
She cradled his dick with warm, gentle hands, stroking and teasing from root to tip, then lowered her mouth and took him deep.
It was heaven. It was hell. Her wet mouth sucked him tight, and her fingers caressed and squeezed his balls in perfect rhythm. He rocked his hips back and forth, and almost immediately, he grew back to full length. Bumping the back of her throat, she hummed around his cock, breathing through her nose and taking him all in, until he went crazy and grabbed her head, making her fuck him with short, hard thrusts.
He exploded in her mouth, coming down her throat, and she swallowed, licking him clean, before sitting back on her heels. Rem groaned and gripped her chin, looking down at her.
Her face reflected a pure joy from serving him. Pure need from wanting him. And pure grace for surrendering.
“Sir? I’m begging you…”
He struggled for breath. “For what? State your need.”
“I’m begging you to fuck me, Sir. I need you inside me.”
With a groan, he pushed her down on the carpet, grabbed another condom, and slid home. This time, he made sure she came fast and hard. With expert strokes, he rubbed her clit continuously until she fell into another orgasm, breaking apart in the grip of his arms.
When they finally collapsed, she asked him again. “Stay with me, Sir. Give us one more chance.”
His eyes half closed and he fought the war inside him that screamed for him to give in. To try. But he didn’t trust himself not to blur the past with the present. What if he scared her off again and he found himself hurt? This time, he’d never recover. There’d be no hope of picking up the pieces.
No, he had to walk away with a perfect memory. At least, he finally knew the truth and could begin to heal from the past.
“I can’t,” he said softly. “I don’t want either of us to be hurt again, Cara.”
Her eyes filled with tears and a broken understanding that ripped him apart. “I learned another thing through the years, Rem. Life is messy. There’s no guarantees. I’m okay with it now, because the trade-off is worth everything. But I can’t do it alone. You have to want me as bad as I want you.”
“It’s okay. I understand.” She forced a smile. “May I ask you to please, leave? I need some time alone.”
His emotions warred. His gut ached to give in and stay, but his mind locked down and forced his body to leave the bed and get dressed. He paused at the door, his fingers wrapped around the knob.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes. Good-bye, Rem. Thank you for last night. I’ll never forget it.”
“Neither will I.” He dragged in a breath and opened the door. “Good-bye, Cara.”
He left the room with an emptiness and searing pain, telling himself over and over it was all for the best.
AIT A MINUTE. YOU SAW CARA?
Cara was your one night stand?” Rafe asked in disbelief.
Rem sipped his coffee and regarded his brothers. They always had brunch on Sundays, which was a good time to catch up, recover from any hangovers and pig out. Rome was ignoring his giant stack of banana pancakes, fork poised mid-flight. Rick stared, mouth half-open like a guppy.
“You guys didn’t know anything about this, right?”
Rick shook his head. “Dude, we’d never do that to you. The reason we set up FANTA-C in the first place was to help you get over her. What the hell is she doing in Vegas?”
Rem rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “Not sure if I even asked her. The night was like a whirlwind. “
Rafe propped his elbows on the table. “Did you sleep with her?”
“Are you back together?” Rick asked.
“No. She asked me to give her another chance, but it’s too much for me.”
Rome tapped the table with his finger. “How do you feel about her? Do you want to try again? Did she tell you why she left?”
Rem gave him the brief run-down on Cara’s explanation. “I blame myself. I should’ve known how unhappy she was. Fuck, she had to run away from me in order to be heard. What type of Dom am I? What type of lover am I?”
Rick turned hard eyes on him. “First off, you were in love and would’ve died for Cara. You’re not a mind reader. None of us are. We can only help our women if they tell us the truth, and that’s been the downfall of a ton of relationships. Does Cara blame you?”
“No, she blames herself.”
“I still hate the way she did it,” Rome said. “But I think you were both at fault. Being a martyr though, doesn’t help the situation, bro. You can’t change the past, but you can damn well make sure you have open communication in the future. Did you like being with her again?”
It had only been two nights since he left her, and already he felt like he was slowly going out of his mind. He caught her scent around each corner. He’d followed two strange women already because the swing of their hips and shot of red hair reminded him of Cara. He was a wreck, but he hoped with enough time, he’d settle.
Rem groaned. “Hell, yes, I loved being with her. But I’m not up for this shit again. She has this spell over me. I just look at her and I’m hard and all I want to do is fuck her and protect her and make her happy.”
Rome winced. “Yep, I feel that way about Sloane. You’re done, dude. You still love her.”
Rafe nodded. “That’s the exact feeling I get about Summer. I don’t think it goes away. Believe me, I tried.”