Weeks ago, the four of us sitting here had seemed impossible. Blake hadn’t wanted me associating with Alli, let alone Heath, with all the trouble he’d brought into her life. Now he’d gone out of his way to bring them back together. I couldn’t make sense of it, but I was genuinely happy he’d done it.
Alli and Heath walked ahead of us on the way home. Alli giggled and leaned into him. I was half expecting them to break out into a sprint toward the nearest bedroom. Last time I was with the two of them, I could barely stomach it. This was different. I wasn’t going through withdrawals from Blake like I had been in New York, and somehow their love just amplified ours. I leaned into Blake, and he circled my shoulders with his arm. I slid my hand around his waist and hooked my thumb on his belt loop, loving how we fit.
“Thank you,” I said.
Things weren’t perfect, but Alli was happy, I was happy, and Blake was the reason why.
I slipped far down into the tub. Another centimeter and my nose would have been submerged. I moaned into the warm water, letting waves of relaxation wash over me. Blake’s fingers kneaded the soles of my feet with expert care. I wasn’t sure what I’d done in a previous life to deserve this utterly perfect moment, but I was loving it.
When I’d been thoroughly massaged, I slipped out of his grasp. I repositioned myself on my knees, settling my legs snuggly on either side of his muscular thighs.
I followed the sharp line of his jaw with my fingers, appreciating every God-given feature that made me so impossibly attracted to him. “You’re too good to me.”
“No such thing,” he murmured, planting a soft kiss on my lips.
“But you spoil me.”
“You deserve to be spoiled.”
I softened at his words. His face was relaxed, happy, a reflection of the moment. I almost felt undeserving of it, though I wasn’t sure why.
Because of my mother’s inheritance, I’d been given opportunities that most people had only dreamed of. But I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt spoiled, doted on by someone who held such affection for me outside of Marie. A little part of me couldn’t completely accept it.
“How do you know if I deserve it?” I tried to read his beautiful hazel eyes. He flashed a megawatt smile, and my brain short-circuited.
“I know everything.”
I cocked my head to the side and studied him with a grin. “How could I forget? Master of the universe.”
He kissed my throat, taking advantage of the position. “Now you’re catching on.” His warm breath sent gooseflesh over my damp skin.
“Do you think they’ll be okay?”
I twisted a strand of his hair around my fingertip.
He nodded. We shared concern about Alli and Heath’s future, though they were probably disturbing the peace in Blake’s spare bedroom as we spoke.
“What will he do now?”
“He’ll stay with me for a little while to start, until we figure out his next move. In the meantime, I’ll be getting him more involved at work. He needs to finally take the business seriously. He’s been screwing around too long because I’ve let him. But responsibility is probably what he needs more than anything right now—something or someone to be accountable to other than his own superficial needs.”
“I can’t believe you did this for them. You didn’t seem very optimistic about things before.”
He shifted beneath me and I sat back a little, sensing he needed space for what he wanted to say. He drenched the fine strands of his hair with the soapy bath water. I traced my hands over the hard curves of his pectorals. There was nothing sexier than wet Blake.
I tore myself away from the mental inventory of Blake’s sexiest qualities to press him. “Talk.”
He sighed. “I don’t know. I guess I became more sympathetic to his position. Not the drug thing. Obviously I can’t relate to that. But the desperation in his voice when he talked about Alli. Like he couldn’t breathe without her, like anything he had left in him that was keeping him going, which probably wasn’t much, was draining by the day not being near her.”
He paused, dropped his hands into the water, and stroked my hips with his thumbs, tightening his hold possessively.
“He loves her.” I finished his thought, as convinced as ever of what they shared.
“I know he does. The way he sounds when they aren’t together, that’s how I feel every time you run away from me. And I couldn’t wish that on anyone else.”
My heart shattered. All the times I’d pushed him away, out of fear, self-preservation, and pure, justifiable rage. But every time I did, my heart ached for him, a bone-deep pain that weakened me at the very core. A part of me wanted to keep that line drawn between us, keep him at a safe distance from my professional life. But fighting it so hard left me in pieces.
“I’m sorry.” My voice was heavy with emotion.
He hushed me and pulled me closer so our bodies were flush. Wet, we slid against each other. His skin on mine, his arms wrapped around me, we were so close. Awareness simmered low in my belly, coiling slowly with every touch, but our motions were careful and deliberate as we caressed each other with infinite care. I was overwhelmed, racked by the potent emotions that had taken over in his presence.
Maybe Marie had been right. We’d passed the point of being the best we could be on our own. What we were together had become so much more powerful, a force that took my breath away and made everything secondary. As much as I hated to admit it, Blake Landon was fast becoming everything to me.
With every stroke of our tongues, roam of our hands, my heart swelled with love. With trust. As my touches became urgent, Blake’s became more controlled, gentler when they should have possessed me with the fierce craving that we shared for each other. I pulled back, determined tonight would be different.
“I want you to take control tonight.”
He leveled an even stare at me.
“Complete control. Whatever you need.” I kept my voice steady even as I worried what I was getting myself into.
His body tensed beneath me. “Erica, we’re not doing this, okay?”
“I love you and I want to do this for you. I trust you to take me as far as you think I can go. I… I can’t promise anything because I don’t know what you want exactly, but I want to try.”
He shifted, giving me a little push to move back. A panic welled up in me.