I was lying on the bed, shaking, in nothing but my pink bra and underwear, and hoping to God that I didn’t look as scared as I felt. Sure, I was excited, but with excitement came the idea that the power of our relationship would shift if we slept together. I’d be done. I’d be owned, branded, wrecked, and then he’d want to know everything that woke me up at night — the scars that still haunted me.

  He’d know my shame.

  I closed my eyes.

  “Look at me,” Chase ordered.

  I opened one eye, then two as Chase’s smile went from smug to warm, trusting, loving, perfect.

  “You’re freaking beautiful, Mil.” He slowly crawled back onto the bed. His mouth touched my leg, and I jerked with pleasure. His tongue made an appearance, swirling its way up my thigh. I whimpered. My body trembled as his hands moved to my hips. It was as if my body fit perfectly in his hands — in his care.

  “Let it go.” Chase laid his head on my hip. His hot breath ran across my belly button making me shiver. “Whatever it is, Mil. Just let it go. You can trust me — I’ll protect you until I die. If you remember one thing from these lips, it’s this. I’ll die before letting you go.”

  Tension soared out of my body at his words.

  He kissed my stomach and worked his way up to the crevice between my breasts. And then he laughed.

  “What?” Was he seriously making fun of my body?

  “Wait.” Chase kept laughing, his face at eye-level with my chest. “It’s not you.”

  Oh great the it’s not you, it’s me speech.

  “Do you even realize how uncomfortable it was for me to ride down the elevator and meet with Nixon while flashes of this,” he asked as he fingered the lacy strap of my bra, “kept slamming into my head?” His hands grazed the top of my breasts as he sighed and kissed where his fingers had just been, “I swear I almost turned around to come back a dozen times. Pink bra… hmm, may have special powers.” He grinned. “I was so turned on I had to drink. You turned me to alcohol with just a glance. One look and I was drowning my sorrows in beer. You’re lucky I didn’t pass out and suffocate.”

  A laugh escaped my lips. “Sorry.”

  “Don’t lie,” Chase scolded, biting down on the flesh on my collarbone then licking where his teeth had just been. “You couldn’t care less about putting me through hell.”

  “True.” I breathed.

  “And I deserved it.”

  “You did,” I agreed.

  “Because I was ogling.”

  “To be fair,” I moaned, arching against his hand as he cupped my neck, “I did flash you.”

  “Which isn’t really playing fair, now is it, Mil?” He chuckled against my ear and then swiped his tongue around the upper shell like he was licking an ice cream cone.

  “No?” My voice shook as chills wracked my body. How was he able to have a conversation right now?

  “Mil…” Chase shifted his focus and his mouth brushed mine lightly, the scrape of his five o’clock shadow had me trembling with desire.

  I wanted more. I wanted to grab him by his ridiculously handsome face and never let go.

  “I’ll stop, if you want, but know that if I do, I may have to spend the night in the bathroom. Door locked. With visions of a naked Tex running through my head so I don’t come in here and take advantage of you.”

  “What happened to the moment?”

  “This is it.” Chase’s mouth met mine again. “The first moment in a lifetime of moments. I’m going to collect them.”

  “You can do that?” I teased, feeling more comfortable with his naked body pressed against mine. “Collect moments?”

  “I’m doing it now.” His green eyes flashed. “Bee-stung lips, high cheekbones, perfect skin that feels like velvet, scents of vanilla here,” he tapped my ear, “and here.” His hand ran down the middle of my chest. “Legs that go on forever.” He grinned. “A smile that could both start a war and end it. And the most beautiful eyes, I’ve ever seen.” He pressed a kiss at the corner of my mouth. “God, I love your eyes.”

  “I love yours,” I echoed in a small voice.

  Those same green eyes widened as a smile broke out across his face; it hurt to look at him. Just being with Chase was overwhelming.

  “Say something now, Mil.” His finger traced from my mouth to my jaw line. “Because I can only keep myself from you for so long.”

  “Now.” I shrugged, a teasing smile dancing on my lips.

  “Now?” He repeated and then like a light bulb or, in Chase’s case, a bull taking over his brain, he tugged at my bra and then my underwear. It was just us. Hot as fire, skin against skin.




  And that part of my heart he’d held for so long finally found its home — in his arms.

  Chapter Thirty-Three


  I’d lost complete control of myself when I’d caught Mil watching me, and then teasing her had done nothing except the inevitable. It had led me to this moment, where I was at a crossroads. I wanted her so bad — my body did. But my heart? I wasn’t sure where it stood.

  All I knew is for the first time in a really long time, I saw Mil’s face, her face, not Trace’s. When I felt Mil’s body with my hands, she consumed my everything, and I wanted to wreck her for anyone else.

  I wanted to brand her with my touch.

  I wanted to sear her with my kiss, sealing her mouth with such strong memories of what my lips felt like against hers that she’d never forget as long as she lived.

  Holding her in my arms, feeling her heartbeat against my hand as I removed the last shred of her lingerie.

  It was the best feeling in the world. I wasn’t worrying about Nixon or Trace or some damn love triangle — it was just me and Mil. Just me and my wife, and I wanted — no I needed to love her like she deserved.

  I closed my eyes… finally releasing the last part of me that was clinging to Trace. And when I opened my eyes? I felt like I could soar, as Mil looked up through thick black lashes, asking me the question every girl does when she’s in a vulnerable position. Will you love me? Will you leave me? Or will you give your body while you take all of mine?

  I flipped over onto my back, pulling Mil on top of me. I figured she’d need to feel in control; she wasn’t one to give up herself willingly. But the minute she was on top of me, it was as if she was confused about what to do. Damn, my body was having no issues remembering what to do. I almost wished it would have, because then it wouldn’t be the fastest sexual experience of my life.

  “Mil.” I cupped her face, dragging my mouth slowly across hers, memorizing her taste, then dipping my tongue into her mouth. She kissed me back, hard. Her hands tangled in my hair as her body moved slowly against mine.

  I groaned — trying to rein it in. She was driving me crazy. Her nails dug into my shoulders as she moved her mouth to my neck. Holy shit. She bit me. Damn, that pain felt good. She bit again and again then sucked.

  I just died.

  They were going to find my body in this exact position come tomorrow morning, and my soul would be giving me a high five from heaven.

  The friction between our bodies was driving me absolutely insane. I flipped her over onto her back, but she fought me. Wrestling match, party of two. I laughed when she slapped my ass, and almost bowed down to worship her when she winked and crushed my mouth with hers again.

  “Mil, I can take about five more seconds of kissing you before I spontaneously combust,” I admitted honestly, my voice low and strained.

  The little minx grinned like I’d just given her the keys to heaven, and maybe I had, because she reached for me and guided me to exactly where I wanted to be.

  With a groan, I tried to go slow.

  Then realized… I had to.

  Confusion smacked me in the face like a two-by-four.

  “Um, Mil…” My eyes searched hers.

  Her face turned red, and then with a smirk, she jerked me aga
inst her, making my world explode in a thousand different rays of light.

  I didn’t want to hurt her, but having her body surround me? Yeah, it was the best damn feeling I’d ever had, and with my self-control being that of negative ten… I moved against her, faster and faster until — she screamed.

  I hoped to God it was a good scream. I hoped to God I hadn’t done some sort of irreversible damage and—

  Tension built from my center, rendering me incapable of hoping anything else. Pure primal need took over. My blood heated, exploded to every inch of my body, through my veins. It pounded in my ears, roared. On the edge of my consciousness, I heard her whimper as she clutched my shoulders, her nails digging into my skin. All sense of rationality completely deserted me as we took each other over the edge.

  With a shudder, I slumped against her, trying to keep my body weight off of her. “Tell me,” I croaked when I stopped gasping for breath.

  “No, I need to—”

  I held her firm. Her body shivered.

  “How many guys, Mil?”

  Her eyes closed as a single tear ran down her cheek. “You… only you.”


  “Are you mad?” she whispered.

  I burst out laughing. “Yes, I’m pissed I’m the only guy who’s ever touched you here.” I placed my hands against her breasts. “The only man who’s kissed you here?” I trailed my fingertips down her stomach, in between our bodies. “Made love to you here.”

  She shuddered, closing her eyes. I brushed a soft kiss against her lips. “Are you insane?” I kissed her again, this time harder, with possession. “I don’t think I could be happier. It’s possible I was already looking into any of your last boyfriends, you know, to find social security numbers and whatnot just in case—”

  “You were going to order hits on my ex-boyfriends?”

  “To keep you safe.” I nodded. “And to keep me sane, yes.”

  “I think I may actually like you, Chase Winter.”

  “Murder? That’s all it took to get you hot? Killing your ex-boyfriends?”

  “No.” Her smile widened.

  I nipped her lower lip. “Because I’m really good at sex?”

  “No, and I wouldn’t know anyway.”

  “Then why?”

  “Because you gave me one moment — but you promised more. And…” she licked her lips. “…I believe you.”

  My heart rammed against my chest as if it was trying to break free. I smiled, tucking pieces of her hair behind her ear, and kissed her neck. What was I supposed to say to that? Words lodged in my throat. I ran my hands down her arm and paused on her wrist, hovering over her scar.

  “Are you ready to tell me?”

  Mil tensed beneath me. I held up my hand. “Wait, before you say anything, I’ve got an idea.” Still fully naked, I got off the bed and grabbed the phone to call room service.

  “Yeah, can I get a bottle of champagne and an assortment of—” I paused and smirked at Mil. “Chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Whatever you have.”

  Mil’s eyes watered. I wasn’t sure if it was because of sexual excitement or just being excited about chocolate-covered strawberries.

  “You. Stay.” I pointed at the bed.

  “Oh?” Her eyebrows shot up.

  Right. It was Mil. Telling her to stay was basically like throwing down the gauntlet, challenging her to do the complete opposite. “Please?”

  Her eyes narrowed.

  “Let me take care of you.”

  Her entire body relaxed, as if I’d just told her I was going to save the world, and all she had to do was sleep through the battle until it was won.

  “Five minutes.” I held up my hand and walked into the bathroom and started the bath water in the Jacuzzi tub. After a few minutes, it was full enough for Mil to sit in. Without saying anything, I walked back into the bedroom, scooped her up into my arms, even when she beat against my chest playfully, and placed her in the soothing water.

  The knock on the door was soft, discreet.

  “Stay.” I kissed her forehead and grabbed a bathrobe, tightening it around my waist as I opened the door. Without letting the guy in, I handed him a twenty-dollar bill and pulled the cart the rest of the way, locking the door behind me.

  When I walked into the bathroom, champagne and food in hand, Mil was humming to herself.

  “You hum?” I asked stupidly.




  I rolled my eyes. “You were humming.”

  “Is that against Chase Winter’s rules? Humming in the tub? What would you rather I do?”

  My body roared to life. “Well…”

  “Stop.” Mil held up her hand. “Forget I asked.”

  “Aw, baby, that’s like turning the key to an engine and then deciding not to drive… it’s just… cruel to the car.”

  “Are you calling me a tease or a racecar driver? I’m confused.”

  Sending her a smug smile, I set the full champagne glasses onto the counter and dropped my bathrobe. “Still confused?”

  “Little chilly, Chase?” Mil reached for the champagne. I smacked her hand lightly.

  “Little eager, Mil?”



  She sighed, but I could tell it was a happy sigh. Mil was trying to act tough, like always, but I was beginning to see that second layer to her. All women, in my experience, were complicated. Each had her secrets and every single one had a way of hiding them. Mil’s fierceness was her armor — and it killed me to think that I could have possibly been responsible for making her gun-shy when it came to men.

  “I’m getting in the tub.”

  “Does that mean you’re kicking me out?”

  “No.” I stepped in behind her and slowly slid down the porcelain. “It just means things are going to be snug.”

  “I’m not so sure I can handle snug.”

  I let out a hiss when the hot water surrounded me and a soft groan escaped from deep in my throat as I pulled her roughly against me. “If I can handle snug, you sure as hell can handle snug.”

  Her soft sigh fanned across my chest, raising goose bumps that had nothing to do with being cold and everything to do with wanting a repeat performance of the last hour we’d spent together. She leaned her head over my heart. I reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear and kissed her temple.

  “I want to know, Mil.”

  My fingers lightly grazed that same scar again, this time pushing against it, as if by adding pressure, the words would come out of her mouth, the fear would dissipate, and she’d trust me.

  “What if I tell you and you hate me?”

  My heart clenched. “Mil, I could never hate you.”

  “You could,” she said in a small voice. “You might.”

  “Trust me.”

  A few seconds of silence passed, and then Mil said, so quietly I almost didn’t hear her, “I was fourteen…”

  Chapter Thirty-Four


  I couldn’t believe that I was actually telling him. Never in a million years had I planned on cutting open past wounds and letting myself bleed out onto the ground.

  But for some reason, Chase made me want to share. He made me believe that if I told him about my demons, he wouldn’t run away screaming; instead he’d help me conquer them.

  “Fourteen?” Chase repeated. “Before or after you and I—” His voice died off.

  I could feel the tension in his body as silence filled the bathroom.

  “Before,” I whispered. The memories surfaced slowly, and then it was impossible to stop the pain as it pinched my chest. That’s how demons destroyed a person. The minute you opened the door to one, the rest of them followed suit, leaving you defenseless and desperate to do anything to get the door to close again.

  “Mil.” Chase rubbed my arms. “It’s okay, I’m here.”

  I was shaking, and although the bath water was still searing hot, I had g
oose bumps all over. Chase continued rubbing my arms as I talked.

  “My dad… he wasn’t right in the head.”

  “Understatement of the century,” he grumbled.

  “Not like that.” My body felt heavy. “I’m sure Phoenix told you about the prostitution ring. Not only was he into selling young girls, but he liked to break them in himself.”

  Chase’s fingers dug into my arms. My world stopped. Would he be disgusted? Maybe I was all of those things my dad had said to me.

  “Mil?” Chase kissed my temple, his lips hovering over my skin as he whispered, “It’s okay, keep going.”

  “One day, one of his men came and said my dad needed me for something. He was at The Cave and had forgotten his cell phone on the counter. So, being the dutiful daughter that I was, I went with the man to drop off the cell phone and ask my dad what he needed.”

  Terror filled every square inch of my body. “I remember that it was really dark. They didn’t call it The Cave for fun. It was an abandoned warehouse that had lights which flickered on and off. My dad was in the middle of some circle, surrounded by a few men in suits. He asked me to come forward, so I did.”

  Chase was quiet, so I kept talking. “I’m still not sure if it was his plan all along, but one of the men asked how much I was. And then another offered money for me. Someone else shouted in a gravelly voice that he’d pay over two million.” I shook my head. “It was such an astronomical amount that I thought they had to be joking. But they weren’t. My dad didn’t even hesitate. He turned to the man with the raspy voice and asked him what the catch was. The man was standing in the shadows, but I remember that he was really big, as in, for a second I thought he was a giant, but his voice… it never changed. It was gravelly, almost as if he’d somehow lost the ability to speak.”

  Chase released his grip a bit on me and kissed my head again. “Did he touch you?”

  “No.” I shook my head. “My dad told me to go home, but he stayed out all night. When he got home, it was the first time in years that he actually smiled at me. The next week was the best week I’d ever experienced with him. He took me shopping, kissed my mom in front of all of us, and was honestly acting like the dad I’d always wanted. Even Phoenix had been impressed. We left for Vegas later that week and that was when my mom told me.”

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