The Dom Who Loved Me The Dom Who Loved Me (Masters and Mercenaries Book 1) by Lexi Blake. Book Description: A routine mission… Sean Taggart is hunting a deadly terrorist, and his only lead is the lovely Grace Hawthorne. She’s the executive assistant for an employment agency Sean suspects is a front for illegal activities. To get the truth, he is going to have to get very close to Grace, a task he is all too eager to undertake when he discovers her deliciously submissive nature. …turns into a dangerous seduction. Soon, Grace Hawthorne is living a double life. By day, she is the widowed mother of two college-aged sons. By night, she submits to Sean’s every dark desire. She’s living out her wildest fantasies of pleasure—intimate acts of trust she’s only read about. As passion engulfs her, a murderer strikes, and Grace learns that Sean has a deeply hidden agenda. Will Sean choose his mission and break her heart or be the Master of her dreams? Excerpt: Chapter 5 Three days later, Grace sank into the pool, sighing as the cool water covered her body. It was peaceful and quiet in her backyard. Her neighbors were elderly and rarely came out after dark, so Grace enjoyed the glorious solitude. Though the September days were ridiculously hot in Texas, the nights had started to take on a cooler, autumnal air . Grace looked up at the nighttime sky. For fourteen years, she’d called this three bedroom ranch-style house home. It had been her and Pete’s dream house. She would have to sell it soon. It didn’t make sense keeping it all on her own. She’d started swimming every single night she could when she’d had that revelation. The water would be too cold to swim in soon. Grace leisurely swam in the moonlight, her mind processing the last few days. She’d tried to keep Mr. Sean Johansson at arm’s length. He seemed intent on screwing up her perfectly rational plan. The day after they had danced together, he’d asked her to lunch. When she’d politely declined, he shown up in the building’s cafeteria where she and Kayla were meeting. He’d promptly charmed the pants off Kayla, who announced that she’d take him if Grace didn’t want him. The big Viking seemed intent on wearing her down. He’d asked her out to dinner every single night, those blue eyes of his pulling at her. He’d followed her to happy hour and been really sweet to Kay and their new friends, Adam and Jacob. That was the real problem with Sean. If he was just a pretty face and a hot body, she wouldn’t be struggling. He was also… sweet . He talked to her. He asked her questions about her sons and what she liked to do in her free time. He seemed truly interested in her as a person. The water felt silky and smooth against her skin. She loved this feeling. She’d left the swimsuit behind, getting out of it after she was in the pool and utterly certain none of her neighbors were in their backyards. Swimming felt different without a suit, sensual and a little forbidden. She swam to the deep end and sat down on the bench built into the side of the pool, her legs dangling as she considered the big Viking who was rapidly taking over her life. Sean was everywhere. He was holding her chair out when they were in meetings together. He’d brought her a latte the day before when she’d had to work late typing up several proposals. He’d waited and walked her to her car because it was past dark by the time she was through. That had been the hardest invitation to turn down. He’d looked a little hurt when she’d explained she had to get home. He had asked again this afternoon, but she was becoming deft at refusing him. He’d tried to get her to attend a dinner meeting with Matt and some representatives from Chile. When he’d complained about not getting any decent home cooking, she’d breezily offered to feed him some of her famous lasagna one of these days. She’d said it with her patented flirtatious smile and tossed out something like he should drop by sometime. He didn’t know where she lived, and he’d be gone in a week or so. She was safe. But a part of her wished she wasn’t. There was only the small squeak of her gate opening that gave her warning she was no longer alone. With a little yelp, Grace pushed off the bench and clung to the side of the pool, her naked breasts scraping lightly against the wall. “Grace? Are you back here? I tried your front door, but no one answered. Oh, there you are.” And there he was, a Norse god in the moonlight. And here she was… without her damn swimsuit. Grace prayed it was dark enough he couldn’t tell. The pool had been built to have a lagoon-like feel. The granite was a dark blue-gray. She hadn’t turned the pool light on, so it was possible he couldn’t tell. Maybe. She prayed he didn’t notice her suit lying on the deck. “Sean, what are you doing here?” The question came out as a little squeak. Her nails ground into the tile on the edge of the pool. He smiled. She could see his even white teeth in the moonlight as he walked onto the deck. He looked unbelievably sexy in a dark suit. His tie was gone and the shirt open at the neck. He carried a bottle of wine in one large hand. “You said you would feed me, woman. That place tonight was crap. I couldn’t take another overdone steak.” “Matt tends to choose his restaurants based on the bar rather than the quality of the food,” she allowed. Oh, she had to find a way to get him out of here. Though the water was the tiniest bit cold, her whole body flushed with embarrassment. The last thing this gorgeous man needed to see was her sagging boobs. “You’re telling me. See, if you had come with us, at least I would have had something pretty to look at.” He held up the bottle of wine. “Instead, I come bearing gifts and begging you to feed me. Seriously, Grace, I’m not a man who enjoys restaurants every night. You don’t even have to cook. Just let me use your kitchen. I’ll come up with something. I’m quite good in the kitchen.” The kitchen sounded like an awesome place for him to be. The kitchen wasn’t here, where he would be treated to the sight of her overly-large posterior. He could go play around in the kitchen and she would force the swimsuit back on. He would never have to know. “That’s great, Sean. The back door is open. Help yourself to anything in the kitchen. I’ll be out in a minute or two.” He started to turn toward the door and stopped. “You seem awfully accepting. I expected a bit of a fight.” “I never fight with a man who is willing to cook for me.” He took a few steps forward until his loafers were just against the edge of the pool. Grace was very thankful for the distance between them. She had the feeling if there wasn’t water in the way, Sean would have gotten much closer. “Are you okay?” He frowned suddenly, and the next question came out of his mouth on a low growl. “Do you have another man here?” She felt her mouth drop open, and she turned, making sure the water covered her up to her neck. She kept one hand on the side of the pool for balance. “No. I don’t have a man here, Sean Johansson, but if I did, it wouldn’t be any of your business.” His gorgeous face turned slightly sheepish. “Would it make a difference if I told you I wanted it to be my business?” “Sean,” she started with a sigh. He was playing some sort of game. He had to be. No man that young and gorgeous would be desperate for a forty-year-old widow. “Don’t play around with me. It’s not kind.” He groaned and shook his head as though he couldn’t figure out what she was saying. “Kind? What do you mean by that? Come on, Grace. What do I have to do? I’ve followed you around like a puppy for days. I’ve been perfectly charming to all your friends and gallant toward you. I’m standing here begging you to let me show off my culinary skills. I’ve decided maybe you’ll take mercy on me if I feed you well enough. I’m playing by your rules, sweetheart. I’m keeping my hands to myself and being the perfect southern gentleman. I need you to tell me what’s going to work.” “Nothing.” She was going to have to be brutally honest with him. She wasn’t going to be used. “I don’t know how often this little act of yours works, but it’s not going to work on me. I’m not going to influence Matt to give you a better contract. You’re going to have to deal with him. Now, I would thank you to leave. From here on out, just be professional with me, and I’ll treat you the same way.” His eyes narrowed. Grace shrank back a bit. It was as though she could feel his willpower filling the space between them. One hand was on his hip as he regarded her. His voice was deeper and smoother than before. “You are working under some serious misconceptions, little one. First, there’s nothing at all professional about the way I feel about you. Second, I don’t give a shit about the contract. It’s a job, Grace. It doesn’t matter. Answer me one question. If you tell me no, then I’ll leave. Grace, do you want me as much as I want you?” Grace swallowed. All she had to do was get that one word out. She just had to say no, and her whole life would go back to normal. He would leave her alone, and she could focus on her sons… who didn’t need her anymore. They were off at college. She could focus on… her job ? That sounded sad. Any way she looked at it, this big, blond man was the most exciting thing to happen to her since forever. Peter had been gone for so long. Her loneliness washed over her. “I don’t hear a ‘no,’ Grace.” His voice was quiet, and she heard a well of emotion in it. “I need a yes.” He wouldn’t move on without it, Grace knew. He wouldn’t give her the easy way out. He would make her say it. “Yes.” She would regret it. She was absolutely sure of that. She would end up with a broken heart, but maybe that was better than having an empty one. His smile lit up the night. His shoulders relaxed. There was a self-satisfied air about him that couldn’t be denied. “I’m so glad. You’ll see . Whatever job I’m doing has nothing to do with what’s between us. Remember that.” He held out his empty hand. “Come on. I was serious about my culinary skills. My mother didn’t get the daughter she wanted . She passed her quest for the perfect pasta down to me. And this wine is heavenly. You’re going to love it.” Grace shook her head. Just because she’d decided to spend time with him didn’t mean she was ready to rise like Venus in front of him. He was still younger than she was, and she still had her insecurities. “You go on. I’ll be there in a minute.” He considered the situation for a moment. It was clear to see he was not a man who was easily dismissed. A slow smile spread across his face and his foot started to tap. He leaned over, trying to get a better view. “What’s wrong? Why won’t you come with me? Are you skinny dipping, little one? Did I catch you without your suit on?” “No.” It even sounded like a damn lie to her own ears. “I’m just shy.” He tsked her. He paced the side of the pool like a lion stuck in a cage. “You’re not going to make this easy on me, are you? We can do this the hard way. That was lie number one. I’ll keep count. I’d watch myself if I were you. There might be punishment later on.” There it was. Grace had to take a deep breath and acknowledge that what attracted her to the Viking wasn’t just his good looks. He had the deep, authoritative presence of a Dom when he wanted it. At least he reminded her of the Doms in her books. Now she had a two-fold problem. She was naked and wet in a way that had nothing to do with the pool she was in. Sean placed the bottle of wine on the table and shrugged out of his jacket. He looked around the yard, his eyes taking in everything. He finally turned and studied the box that controlled her pool. “Ah, there it is.” The pool was suddenly illuminated with a lovely blue light. It was a soothing color that also bathed her naked form in light. Grace gasped and tried to move away. There was nowhere to go, no place to hide. Sean’s breath was audible. He stood there for a moment looking at her, his eyes wide. “You really are naked.” Before Grace could protest, Sean jumped into the pool fully dressed. “Sean!” He swam toward her, his big body powerfully stroking through the water. He could hold his breath for a really long time. Grace moved to the very far end of the pool and thought about using the bench to get out. His hand was on her ankle before she could make the move. His grin was a predatory slash across his handsome face as he surfaced and moved his hands to her waist. He stared at her through the water. “What happened to being a gentleman?” Her voice was a breathy confection of yearning. She hoped she didn’t scare him off. She searched his face. He didn’t seem to be offended by what he saw. His blue eyes were taking in every inch of her. “The gentleman has left the building, little one.” His hands moved up to cup her breasts. “God, you’re beautiful.” She suddenly felt beautiful. It occurred to Grace that she had a choice. She could let her insecurities have their way and perhaps save her dignity— or she could let her dignity hang and have Sean. Her Viking won in a heartbeat. A light happiness filled her. She wanted. She hadn’t wanted in so long that the very yearning was a pleasure in and of itself. She gave herself up to the feel of his hands on her. Her nipples were hard and aching. She wound her arms around his neck. “That’s right, Grace. Hold on to me.” He covered his mouth with hers as he pulled her to the middle of the pool. Grace’s feet couldn’t touch the bottom, but Sean didn’t have the same problem. Five and a half feet worth of water couldn’t cover up Sean Johansson. He pulled her away from the side. She had to wrap herself around him if she wanted to stay afloat. His lips were warm and soft against hers. He nibbled tenderly at her mouth and then rubbed his nose against hers. It was a sweet gesture that had Grace’s heart as engaged as the rest of her. There was lust in Sean’s eyes, but there was a wanting there that seemed like more than simple sex. “You’ve made me crazy for days.” He ran his tongue along her lower lip. She groaned in response. Every nerve in her body seemed to be coming alive. “You are the most damned flirtatious woman I’ve ever met. I swear if you use that honey voice of yours on the delivery guy again, I’ll have to kill him.” Grace gave into the urge to run her fingers through that thick mop of his. He usually kept it ruthlessly slicked back, but now it was a sexy mess. She loved the silky feel of it under her fingers. She’d longed to be this close to him for days, and now she could see he was perfect even with no distance between them. His face was chiseled perfection. Even the shadow of his beard tickling against her cheek felt like a sweet sensation. “I don’t mean anything by it.” She’d just always been a flirt. Pete hadn’t really noticed. He hadn’t been the jealous type. Sean seemed like the jealous type. If she belonged to him and he caught her flirting, he might not laugh it off. He might… he’d said there might be punishment later. That one phrase did all kinds of things to her libido. God, why had he said that? She wondered if she could talk Sean into spanking her. He might think she was a complete pervert. How would she explain that she read a lot of erotica and had a few wicked fantasies? She would have to settle for vanilla sex. It would still be so good. “Why do you think I let that poor delivery guy live, baby? I know you’re just being your sweet self, but Grace, I am very possessive. You need to remember that.” His voice was light and teasing. He pulled her flush against his body, his hands cupping the globes of her ass as he walked them toward the shallow end of the pool. Now his chest was out of the water. The white dress shirt was plastered against his skin. It molded to the hard, ripped muscles of his chest that spoke of hours spent in a gym. He looked down at her, studying her face. “You look like you could eat me up.” Grace lowered her eyes, embarrassed to be so very open. It was hard to know how to play this. It had been so long since she’d dated. It had been twenty years since she’d been in an intimate situation with any man other than her husband. “Hey.” Sean set her on her feet. Without her heels, she came to the middle of his chest. He was so big he made her feel small and delicate. He cupped her chin and forced her to look up at him. The light of the pool illuminated his gorgeous face, making his light blue eyes seem darker, more powerful. “I love the way you look at me, Grace. It makes me feel ten feet tall, and I definitely want you to eat me up.” He lowered his mouth to hers, and this time there was no gentleness. His kiss dominated. His tongue thrust in and tangled with hers in a bold imitation of what she was sure his cock wanted. Grace softened against him , letting her hands explore his rock-hard chest as he kissed her. His mouth slanted over hers again and again. Their tongues slid in a silky dance. His five o’clock shadow scratched lightly against her , but she loved the feel of him . He pulled her into the cradle of his body, placing the long line of his erection against her belly. His hips rolled, a blatant invitation to play. It wasn’t an invitation she intended to refuse. She was lost, ready to wrap her legs around his lean waist and take him right then and there. Grace buried her face in the skin exposed on his chest. She kissed him there, her hands pulling at the buttons of his shirt, hating the fabric that kept his skin from hers. She wanted her hands on him, feeling the warmth of his flesh and the hard play of his muscles. She wanted to sink her nails in and leave her mark on him. Sean pulled away abruptly. His sharp tone of voice cut through the soft haze of her lust. “No, Grace. You are not in charge.” Her feet found the bottom of the pool . She hadn’t realized she’d been depending on him for balance. She felt vulnerable again, without the comfort of his body surrounding hers. She’d heard him, but the only words that really registered were no and not. She was making an ass of herself. How could she have thought he was serious? He was just being playful . He was probably really surprised she’d taken him seriously. She was a forty-year-old widow with sagging boobs and ten extra pounds that wouldn’t go away. He was a Nordic god. Grace tried to make her way around him. “Stop it.” His voice was a sharp bark, and his arm went around her waist. “I’m not putting up with that. We’re going to get the rules in place before we get started.” “Just let me go, Sean.” She didn’t want to hear about his rules. “No.” When Grace looked up at him, he seemed a bit savage. “Did you treat your last Dom like this, sweetheart? Did he let you manipulate him? That won’t happen with us.” He picked her up and set her on the side of the pool. She could feel her face flaming with embarrassment. He’d mentioned Doms. Why would he do that? What had he heard about her? Only a few people knew about her fantasy. The smooth tile was slightly cold on the cheeks of her ass. Her feet dangled in the water, leaving her feeling exposed and vulnerable. She quickly tried to cover her breasts. Her fence was high, but it felt wrong to be naked out of the water. Sean’s hands grabbed hers and pulled them away from her chest. “Don’t you dare. You need to pick a safeword right now.” “What?” She felt her mouth drop open. He was asking about a safeword? “I don’t understand.” How could he know? What would he think? He’d asked about her Dom. He frowned. “Lie number two, Grace. Let me put this as plainly as I can. Me, Dom. You, sub. Pick a safeword, or I’ll get out of this pool, carry you to that very nice bench over there, and we won’t get up again until your ass is a stark red.” “Elephant.” She spoke quickly. She wasn’t afraid of the spanking. She was intrigued by it, but she wasn’t sure how she felt about Sean knowing so much about her so soon. He didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Grace let her eyes sink submissively down. From the books she’d read, she knew it should be a word she wouldn’t use during sex. “Is that a good word?” Her soft words worked some magic on him. His shoulders relaxed, and his hold on her grew gentle once more. “It’s a very good word. Is that your usual safeword?” She bit her bottom lip. He was under some mistaken impressions, but Grace wasn’t sure if she should set him straight. She settled for honesty by merely answering his question. “No. I just made it up.” He smiled. “Excellent. I would prefer we start a fresh relationship. Now, I’m releasing these hands. Put them on the tile behind you and lean back. Then I want the heels of your feet on the edge of the pool. Do you understand?” She glanced around, forgetting her game. She was a little panicked at the prospect of obeying him. “But Sean, people might see me.” “No one is out here, Grace.” The impatience rolled off of him. Grace shook her head and once again wished she’d kept her damn swimsuit on. Of course, by now, Sean would probably have pulled it off her. Grace was honest enough with herself to know that she would have let him, but there were several problems with the scenario. “I have a home owners association. I once got a three hundred dollar fine for leaving my garbage cans out two hours late. I can’t imagine what the fine will be for leaving my ass hanging out.” He bit the words out like bullets. “No one can see your ass because you’re sitting on it. As for that pussy of yours, don’t think about it. All anyone’s going to see is my face buried in it. So, all we have to worry about are those gorgeous tits. We’ll just tell everyone you’re French. Now, do as I told you, or we’ll go to the bench.” She shivered, but it wasn’t from cold. She’d fantasized so often about being placed over hard thighs and accepting loving discipline. Not even in her dreams had she expected it would come from someone like Sean. “You would really spank me?” He stared a hole through her. “I’m very close to doing it right now. You have to make the choice. You can submit, or I’ll stop right now, and we can pretend this never happened. I don’t know if you’re experienced or if you’re just curious, but this is who I am, Grace.” “You’re a Dom.” Deep down she’d known. She had been sure he was all alpha male, but part of her had recognized a man who could completely dominate her. His lips quirked up. “I believe I mentioned that. I’ve trained for years. I know a sub when I see one. Now, make the choice. Give in to me or say your safeword.” Everything she’d dreamed of was right there. She could explore something she’d always wanted with Sean if she was just brave enough to submit. Grace chose to give in. Sean was in charge. Grace let her legs fall open. This was what had attracted her to the lifestyle. She didn’t have to worry about anything except obeying Sean. There was no place for insecurities with a Dom. Grace felt her body tremble in anticipation as Sean stared at her pussy. “You’re so fucking gorgeous. Look at how wet you are.” His voice was a dark, warm blanket covering her and protecting her from the outside. It was safe here with Sean. His fingertips grazed the inside of her thighs, making her shiver in anticipation. He ran his hands all along her legs, cupping her knees, caressing her flanks, running his fingers all the way down to her pink toenails and back up to the apex of her thighs. He moved a single finger from the top of her clit down through the wettest portions of her cunt. Very gently he worked that single, big finger deep inside her. “This is better,” he said, his voice still deep, but the previous bite was gone, replaced with a languid, sensual tone. “Let’s go over a few things, little one. Set some ground rules. I like to be called Sir when we’re playing. I don’t know if you’ve worked with a Dom before. Sometimes I’ll ask you to keep quiet, but not tonight. I want to hear you. You have permission to make as much noise as you like.” “Thank you, Sir.” She knew that much. Doms preferred Sir or Master when playing. They also liked to be obeyed. Luckily, he was willing to let her make noise. It would be hard to remain silent when everything about him made her want to howl. She gasped as he grazed her clit with the pad of his finger. “Oh, Sir.” “I love the way you say that.” He moved between her spread legs. The height of the pool’s side was perfect for his purposes. His face was right in line with her waiting pussy. He breathed in her scent. “You smell delicious. And I love this pretty, shaved pussy. It makes you look like a ripe peach.” Pete had asked her to shave it. She’d never gotten out of the habit. Now she was beyond glad for it. His mouth hovered over her pussy. She wanted more than anything to push up and force his tongue into her, but she was patient. After a moment, she felt the first gentle lap of his tongue. “Oh, oh.” She whimpered at the delicate feel of him on her clitoris. It had been so long. Tears formed in her eyes at the sweet feel of another soul touching her, adoring her. She’d missed this so much. She loved her children, but she’d longed for this. He tormented her with little, teasing licks. His tongue darted from her swollen clit to her weeping slit, delving briefly in, only then to trace a line almost all the way to the rosebud of her ass. He kept it up for the longest time before she felt the pressure of a finger pressing against her anus. “I’m going to fuck you here, Grace. Not tonight, but eventually. Have you been taken here before?” He rimmed her anus, but didn’t press in. “No.” The feel of his finger against her ass was foreign and totally wicked. She wasn’t sure if she liked the pressure, but she wanted to push her own limits . She wanted to please Sean. She pressed her backside against his finger. He pulled his hand away, and she felt a short, sharp slap to her ass. She hissed slightly at the pain, but it quickly became a warm heat. “No. You take what I give you or I’ll stop. Do you understand?” “In theory ,” Grace admitted. She was careening between feeling intensely vulnerable and totally uninhibited. She was flustered and on edge. She found herself saying things she hadn’t wanted to share. “I’ve only really read about BDSM. And it’s been awhile since I… dated.” “You’ve never had a Dom before? Really? Your husband wasn’t in the lifestyle?” She shook her head. “No. He laughed when I asked about it. He said he didn’t want to hurt me.” He hadn’t even been willing to try. “And you haven’t looked for a Dom? Not since he died?” “I was busy raising my kids and working. It’s hard to have any kind of relationship when you have two teenagers in the house. Sean, how did you know I was interested in… this stuff?” “Years of training and very good instincts,” he replied with a little kiss. “You attempt to please the people around you. You’re not a pushover, but you gain a deep sense of worth from being valuable to others. You prefer to wait, to defer your own pleasure and needs if you notice someone else in need. You’re a natural submissive, little one. You should be happy Doms don’t grow on trees or else you would have been snapped up and collared a long time ago.” She couldn’t help but laugh at that scenario. It felt right to be here with Sean. He’d seen so much in the few days he’d known her. He’d really studied her. Sean was still for a moment. “Grace, how long has it been since you had sex?” The question was softer, the tone much closer to the everyday Sean she’d become accustomed to. “I haven’t seen anyone since my husband died, Sir. It’s been six years.” He was quiet, but his hand traced a pattern against her pussy. “I am honored, little one. I’m honored that you would let me show you this world. I promise I’ll take care of you. I’m not interested in a one-night stand. I’ll be very good to you. Starting now.” His tongue covered her clit, rubbing insistently as his fingers foraged deep. Grace’s fingers bit into the stonework. It felt so good, yet she needed more. He worked one, and then two fingers, deep into her pussy , scissoring them when he found the proper place. Grace let out a little howl as he hit that perfect place deep inside her. He stroked her G-spot and her clit simultaneously, and she came with a fierce little cry. The orgasm spilled over her, curling her toes and making her very happy with the blond god who had made good on his promise. Her muscles shook with the tiny aftershocks as he licked her one last time. Sean pulled her off the tile and back into his arms. Grace felt languid and happy. Her arms wound around his neck, letting him support her. The water felt cool now that her skin was so hot. It was a comfort to be surrounded by it. “Why?” Grace didn’t pretend to misunderstand his quiet question. Honesty, she’d read, was the most important component of the relationship between sub and Dom. “I didn’t want anyone until now.” He held her close, cradling her to his chest. He pressed light kisses on her forehead. “I’m very grateful for that, little one. You won’t regret it. Now, I need to get out of these wet clothes.” “Yes, you do, Sir.” She put a little sexy growl on her words. He needed to get out of those clothes because it was his turn to come. She wanted to take him in her mouth. She wanted to learn every inch of that solid erection she’d only touched through the fabric of his pants. Sean chuckled. “Oh, we’ll get to that, but later.” Her head came off his chest, the pleasant buzz she’d gotten from the orgasm dissipating a bit. Her insecurities began to eat her again. “You don’t want to?” He seemed almost hesitant to broach whatever subject was bothering him. “I want to, but not until we get a few things straight. I don’t know what you expect from a Dom. Since you’re so new to all of this, I think we should talk about what each of us wants. Communication is the key to a relationship like this, little one. I know what hasn’t worked for me in the past. I want this to be easy between us, so I think I should explain. Grace, I want to dominate you in the bedroom, but I don’t want a twenty-four/ seven relationship.” Her heart felt like it would break. She really hadn’t expected that from him. “You just want to see me for sex? You don’t want to date me?” His eyes widened with confusion. “What are you talking about? What do you think I’ve been trying to do? Grace, I ask you out three times a day. I go and get your three o’clock coffee. I sit like a lap dog at your desk, waiting to see if you’ll deign to allow me to walk you to your car. It’s hard on a man’s ego. How can you say I don’t want to date you?” “You said you didn’t want a relationship.” He sighed. “I don’t want a twenty-four/ seven D/ s relationship, baby. Look, I have a brother. He’s older than me. He’s really hardcore and most of his friends are, too. I got into the lifestyle at a young age, but there are parts I’m never going to be comfortable with. I’m crazy about you. I want everyone to know we’re together. I just… I don’t want a slave.” She smiled up at him . Her relief surged through her like a wave. It had never occurred to her that he would want to take the D/ s relationship outside the bedroom. “I’m glad to hear that. Sean, you should know that the first time you tell me what to do outside the bedroom, I’ll probably take a skillet to your head.” She cuddled back against him, happy they were on the same page. “My mama made sure I had a good cast iron skillet when I got married.” “Save me from southern women and their mamas.” He started to walk toward the steps. His arm went under her legs, and he hauled her up. “I want you to think about this. I want to be utterly in charge when it comes to our sex life, but I want a partner. I want to depend on you as much as you depend on me. When we’re in the bedroom or at a club, I’m the Master, but everywhere else, I want to be your boyfriend with all the stuff that comes with it.” He placed her on her feet. There was a towel on the bench. He wrapped her in it and started to dry her off with short strokes. Grace stood there smiling a bit. No one had touched her in so long, and now she had her own personal dryer. “What stuff comes with it, Sean? You’ll have to forgive me, but I haven’t had a boyfriend in twenty-two years. I married Pete when I was eighteen and had two kids by the time I was twenty. I’m afraid I don’t understand dating.” “Hold your arms out.” Grace did as Sean asked, and he wrapped the towel around her torso. “I think we should take it slow. Maybe we can have dinner tomorrow. Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. We don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules. We can make them up as we go along.” He leaned over and kissed the bridge of her nose. “Now, go get me one of those towels and turn on the shower. I’ll clean up and then maybe get a look at your kitchen.” She nodded, but her doubts lingered as she walked through the cool house. She moved through the master bedroom and into her sunny yellow bathroom. It had become so very feminine over the years, she wondered at how out of place big, masculine Sean would look in it. She grabbed a towel, turned on the shower to heat up, and returned to him. He’d taken off his clothes and stood there in the moonlight completely comfortable with his own nudity. Of course, who wouldn’t be if they looked like that? Grace stared for a moment. He was a testament to masculine perfection. His shoulders were broad and his chest ripped. His abs formed a perfect six-pack, and she’d been right about his legs. They were long and powerful. There was the lightest dusting of blond hair across his chest. And then there was his cock. It stood up proudly, jutting from the V of his thighs. It was long and ridiculously thick. It lay almost flat against his abdomen, the head reaching his navel. Without a thought, Grace licked her lips. He was so hard it must be painful. Grace stepped forward, and her hand came out to touch him. He stopped her by catching her wrist. “I didn’t give you permission to touch me, Grace.” She felt herself flush with embarrassment. She took a quick step back and lowered her head so he couldn’t see the tears welling up in her eyes. How could he not want her? He released her hand and took the towel . He quickly wrapped it around his waist . “I thought I made myself plain. I’m in control of our sexual encounters. There will be times when I give you leave to do what you like. This is not one of those times. I’m going to take a shower and then we’ll talk. Think about this long and hard. I might not be so easy to deal with as you think. I won’t tolerate you manipulating me.” “I wasn’t trying to manipulate you.” Her fists were clenched at her sides. She didn’t understand anything. If he didn’t want her, why the hell was he here? “I didn’t understand that I wasn’t even allowed to touch you. Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” Maybe it was the kind of thing that only worked in a book. He forced her chin up, his eyes fairly pleading. “I’m sorry, little one. I’m feeling a little savage. I need to calm down, and that means I need a few minutes to myself. I know you won’t believe this, but I’m feeling my way through this, too. I haven’t dated much.” She snorted. It wasn’t a pleasant sound, but she couldn’t help it. His lips curled up slightly. “I didn’t say I hadn’t had an enormous amount of sex, but it didn’t mean anything. Now, go open that bottle of wine. When I get out of the shower, we’ll talk.” He turned around, and it took everything Grace had not to gasp. Sean was utterly perfect from the front, but his back was a mass of scars. She managed to keep quiet and not reach out to him. He was damaged. That was something she understood. He walked off, leaving her feeling more vulnerable than ever. What had happened to him? The scars were white. They were years old, but told a tale of pain he’d endured. Grace wanted to go to him and wrap her arms around him. She wanted him to tell her what had happened and to promise that he wouldn’t be in that position ever again. She doubted that she was going to be able to sit patiently and watch him cook dinner as he explained why he was changing his mind about making love to her. It seemed to Grace that was what he was doing. She picked up the bottle of wine and walked back into the house, closing the door behind her. She would do as he asked her to, but she would do it in her way. And she would definitely find out how serious he was. Blake, Lexi (2011-09-25). The Dom Who Loved Me (Masters and Mercenaries) (pp. 61-82). DLZ Entertainment LLC. Kindle Edition.