Authors: Sherri Hayes
Suddenly, I wasn’t in the water any more. Strong arms were wrapped around me, and the most soothing voice in the world was chanting my name. It was the last sound I heard before my eyes drifted shut and sleep claimed me.
I’d just put the finishing touches on our sandwiches when I heard a blood-curdling scream come from Brianna’s room. Dropping the knife I had in my hand, I raced toward the sound.
What I found when I entered her bathroom caused my chest to clench painfully. Her arms were flaying about as if they were trying to fight off an unknown attacker, and her body was slowly slipping farther and farther down into the water.
Without thinking about the fact that I was fully clothed or that Brianna was naked, I reached into the tub. Amazingly, she didn’t fight me as I scooped her up and pulled her into my arms. She was sobbing, and her body was shaking as I brought her onto my lap.
“Shh, Brianna. You’re safe, sweetheart. No one will hurt you here.”
I kept repeating my mantra until I felt her calm and slowly begin to relax in my arms.
It wasn’t long before I realized that she’d fallen asleep. She’d had a long and trying day today. It was no wonder she was tired.
Carefully, I reached up to pull the towel down from the bar just to my right. Being as gentle as I could, I wiped the remaining water droplets from her bare body before lifting us both off the floor.
I carried her back into the bedroom and over to her bed. It took some maneuvering, but eventually I was able to pull the sheet back and lay her down. Only then did I notice the marks on her breasts. Around her nipples were small round scars the perfect size for cigarettes. I felt a lump develop in my throat as I fought hard to swallow down the mixture of sorrow and outrage I felt. How could someone do this to another human being? How did they sleep at night?
Without thought to what I was doing, I reached out and touched one small circle and traced its pattern. The skin was only slightly raised, but the marks were visible against her pale flesh.
Removing my hand, I decided to take this opportunity to inspect the rest of her.
Slowly, I let my eyes roam down her torso. At the juncture of her legs I could still see the burn marks I’d noticed that first day visible through the new hair growth just starting to show. I didn’t find anything that I hadn’t seen before, until I reached her feet. On the bottom of her right heel was what looked to be burn marks of some kind.
Again, I couldn’t resist the impulse to reach out and run my fingers over it. He’d burned her and left scars that might never fully heal. It wasn’t enough that she’d worn his collar; he’d had to permanently mark her as his property. I was beginning to feel sick again.
Feeling the sudden urge to leave the room, I reached to pull the covers over her body when I glanced up at Brianna’s face and noticed she was watching me. I tried to give her a reassuring smile. “How are you feeling, Brianna?”
Her eyes held mine for several seconds before she closed them tightly. Seeing movement, I looked down and noticed her hands had clenched into fists. Brianna’s chest rose and fell more rapidly as her breathing picked up.
Leaning in, I cupped her face. “Please look at me,” I asked.
Slowly her eyes fluttered open and I watched her swallow. “Am I acceptable for you, Master?” she whispered.
I blinked. It took me a moment to understand what she meant, but as I continued to look into her eyes I saw the mixture of fear, determination, and something else.
There were so many responses I could give. Yes, she was more than acceptable to me. Brianna was the most beautiful woman I’d ever met, and she became more so every day. But she was talking about the physical only. She was asking if her body was pleasing to me.
Without a doubt I knew I had to handle this situation with care. She’d come a long way, but she was still so fragile. The woman who’d graced my home that first night was still there just beneath the surface.
Raising my right hand, I reached up first to stroke her hair. “You are beautiful, Brianna,” I said making sure she was looking at me. Then slowly I let my hand travel down her neck to the marks on her left breast. “All of you.”
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. I could feel her heart pounding under my fingertips, the motion causing her chest to rise and fall beneath my hand.
Without thinking, I brought my mouth to hers. For the first time, I let my emotions come to the surface and allowed her to feel some of the passion she invoked within me.
Brianna gasped but did not fight me. Pulling back only enough to speak, I demanded, “Kiss me.”
My lips came back down upon hers. She didn’t hesitate and kissed me back with an equal amount of force. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into a sitting position. The feeling of her naked breasts pressed against me was heavenly and incredibly erotic.
I had one hand wrapped securely in her hair and the other around her waist. It wasn’t enough. My tongue begged entrance into her mouth. She opened to me, and seconds later I was able to taste the sweetness of the woman in my arms as my tongue rubbed and explored. Brianna tasted even sweeter than I’d imagined her to be.
Reality came crashing back in on me as I realized that I was holding a naked woman in my arms and that it wouldn’t take much to discard my clothing and bury myself deep inside her. But I wanted more than just sex with Brianna. If I took what my body desired right now, sex would be all we would ever have. She would never learn to trust me.
So reluctantly I pulled back. My breath was coming hard and so was hers. It took everything I had to pull away from her and walk to the other side of the room.
Minutes passed, and the only sound filling the room was our breathing. “Your clothes are on the end of the bed, Brianna. Since you’re awake, you should eat. Get dressed and meet me in the kitchen.”
“Master?” she asked softly.
“Do as you’re told,” I snapped. Then realizing what I’d done, I took a deep breath to calm myself. Turning back I saw her big blue eyes staring at me in hurt and confusion.
Carefully I walked back to her, placed my hands around her face, and tilted her head up so that I could look into those glorious eyes of hers. “You need to eat. You can sleep after.” Then dropping my hands, I left her room as quickly as my feet would carry me.
As soon as I entered the main room, I took a deep breath and tried to clear my head. That woman was doing something to my brain.
I went directly to my room to change out of my now soaked clothing and into something dry. After donning a clean pair of jeans and a T-shirt, I returned to the kitchen to pick up where I’d left off with our lunches.
Why was it that I couldn’t think logically near her? And what was with my libido going into hyperdrive lately? Yes, she was beautiful, sexy beyond belief. And yes, it had been a while, but that wasn’t unusual for me when I wasn’t in a relationship.
I tended to be rather picky when it came to my partners. Because of that, and my particular tastes, I didn’t invite women into my home often, nor did I go to many parties. It just wasn’t my scene. I was a very private person.
Only after a month of begging from Lily and Logan had I gone with them to a party about two months ago. They were hoping someone would strike my interest.
That was where I’d run into Daren.
I was still lost in my thoughts when I felt Brianna enter the room. When my eyes located her, the memory of her naked and in my arms came flooding back to me even though she was now fully dressed in yoga pants and a fitted T-shirt.
Her eyes were focused on the floor as she walked tentatively toward me in the kitchen. Swallowing, I tried to get a hold of myself.
When she reached the island, I placed the sandwich in front of her. “Eat your lunch, Brianna.”
Originally I’d planned on sitting beside her at the counter as we’d done many times over the last few weeks, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands to myself if I attempted that at the moment. So instead I ate my sandwich standing up at the counter, keeping several feet between us.
She ate in silence, as did I. We needed to talk about today, about everything, but I just couldn’t. I needed my wits about me, and she needed me to be calm. Right now I was anything but.
When she finished, I took her plate along with mine and put them in the dishwasher. Turning back to face her, I saw silent tears flowing down her cheeks. Without a second thought I was moving toward her and wrapping her in my arms. “Why are you crying, love?”
She shook her head. “Please don’t be angry with me, Master. I’ll do better, I promise.”
Instinctively my arms held her tighter. “I’m not angry with you.”
“But . . . ,” she said in a strangled voice.
“Shh,” I whispered, taking in the lovely scent of coconut now covering her skin. “Are you tired?” She nodded. Pulling back enough to see her face, I placed a kiss on her forehead and said, “Go take a nap. When you wake up we’ll talk about what happened today.”
I felt her stiffen, but she dutifully answered, “Yes, Master.”
She began to get down from her stool, but I caught her by the chin. “You are not in trouble, Brianna.” After nodding she walked toward her bedroom and disappeared.
I stood looking at the door to her room for several minutes before heading upstairs. Looking at the clock, I debated whether or not to call Logan. It was the weekend and I hated to disturb them, but I needed to talk to someone. Before I could stop myself, I picked up the phone and dialed.
Logan picked up on the second ring. “Hello?”
“Logan, it’s Stephan.”
“Hey, Stephan.” Then concern laced his voice. “Everything okay?
“Are you at your place? We’ll be there in thirty minutes.”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
He laughed. “You didn’t ask. I offered. Besides we’re just finishing up here anyway, and I know Lily would love to see Brianna.”
I hung up the phone and took a deep cleansing breath. Maybe Logan and Lily would have some idea how to handle this situation. I knew Brianna and I needed to talk about so many things, but maybe having Lily here would help put her mind at ease for a while.
After straightening my desk, I went downstairs to wait for Logan and Lily. Exactly thirty minutes later, I heard a knock on the door.
Before I’d even opened it all the way, Lily was bouncing through the door. She took a quick look around and then turned on me. “Where is she?”
By this time Logan had made his way inside as well.
I shut the door as I answered her. “She’s taking a nap. We had a long morning.”
“What did you do, Stephan?”
I felt slightly offended, even though I knew she was right. It was my fault. “Why does it have to be something I’ve done?”
“Because I know you.”
I snorted. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She glared at me.
Logan seemed to think this was a good time to enter the conversation. “You said something was wrong?”
Nodding, I motioned for them to follow me into the living room. Logan and Lily sat on the couch while I took a seat in my chair. Just sitting here made me think of her.
Lily’s voice brought me back to the present. “So what happened?”
I sighed and started talking. It wasn’t difficult until I got to the part in her bedroom. As I described what happened and my actions, Lily gasped. “Stephan, you didn’t?”
There was no doubt in my mind as to what she was asking. “No, Lily. I didn’t. But I wanted to. Very much.”
“Well that’s good, right?” she said, unsure now.
“Yes. It’s good. I just . . .” My head fell to my hands in defeat. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’ve never been on the edge of control like that before. And then after I pulled away . . . She looked so hurt, and I just had to comfort her, although it just about killed me to be that close.”
Neither of my friends commented, and their lack of response had me looking up. Each of them wore knowing grins on their faces.
“You love her,” Lily declared.
Love her? How in the world could I love her? I barely even knew her. “No. Lily. It’s just not possible.”
“Sure it is,” she said, her voice gaining conviction.
Then Logan joined in. “I have to agree with Lily. Stephan, you’ve spent every waking hour you’re not at work with her. You’re obviously attracted to her. You care what happens to her, whether or not she’s happy or sad. Why is it so inconceivable to you that you’ve fallen in love?”