She acknowledged this with a teasing smile. The sadness was in the past, after all. “So if you’re going to keep her in bed for the next few days, just make sure you give her breaks to eat.”

I nodded, moving my eyes to the back of the room, where my girl spun a couple of times, took aim, and then barely hit the dartboard. She and Sara broke into laughter, pausing only to say something that then made them both laugh harder.

And while she played and danced to the Rolling Stones, I felt the weight of my love for her settle into a heavy warmth in my stomach. Two months apart was nothing in the grand scheme of what we had ahead of us, but in our shared history it felt enormous. I wanted to dwarf it with time spent together.

I needed to get back, get closer. I waved to the bartender, mouthing, “Check,” when she looked at me.

Julia stopped me with a warning hand on my arm. “Don’t f**k it up. She’s independent, and she’s been doing it on her own for so long she’ll never be the girl to tell you how much she needs you. But she’ll show you how much she wants this. Chloe is about action, not words. I’ve known her since we were twelve, and you’re it for her.”

Two smooth arms slipped around my waist from behind, and Chloe pressed a kiss between my shoulder blades. “What are we talking about over here?”

“Football,” Julia said just as I answered, “Politics.”

I felt her laugh and she slid under my arm, wrapping herself around me. “So you were talking about me.”

“And what a mess I was and how happy I look tonight, and how Bennett better not f**k it up this time.”

Julie glanced at me, punting that one in my direction as she lifted her beer, raised it in a silent toast, and then left us alone at the end of the bar.

Chloe turned her brown eyes on me. “Did she tell you all of my secrets?”

“Hardly.” I set my drink down and wrapped my arm around her. “Can we go now? I’ve been away from you for too long and I’m reaching the limit on how much sharing I’m willing to tolerate. I want you alone.”

I felt her laugh as a small shaking of her body in my arm, and then the quiet sound made it to my ears. “You’re so demanding.”

“I’m just telling you what I want.”

“Fine then. Be specific. What do you really want?”

“I want you on your knees on my bed. I want you sweaty and begging. I want you wet enough to drink from.”

“Shit,” she whispered, her voice strung tight. “I’m already there.”

“Then damn, Miss Mills. Get the f**k in my car.”

With my hands on the steering wheel, and her hands everywhere else—my thighs, my cock, my neck, my chest—I wasn’t even sure we would make it home safely.

Especially not once she lifted my right arm so she could duck down and unzip my pants, pull my c**k from my boxers, and drag her tongue up its length. I’d wanted to get her home, but fuck, this would do just as well.

“Oh, God,” she whispered, before taking all of me in her mouth.

“Holy fuck,” I mumbled, moving into the slow lane of traffic.

It was so perfect, all over again: her hands and mouth working in tandem, tiny moans vibrating against me and sounding to all the world as if she’d never wanted anything as much as she’d wanted to feel me like this. She started slow, long pulls and tiny teasing licks, looking up at me through dark lashes until I thought I might lose my mind. But she read me like she always did, knowing when not to stop, when to move faster or rougher, squeezing my base tightly. What sent me reeling was her own excitement; her eyes grew dark, pleading, her breath grew labored, and her sounds around me grew more frantic. Too soon, I was gripping the steering wheel, panting and begging, and, finally, cursing loudly as I came in her mouth.

I have no idea how I managed to steer the car onto my street, or pull it into my driveway, but with shaky hands, somehow I got us there. She kissed my navel, and then rested her forehead against my thigh and the car grew completely silent. It wasn’t exactly how I imagined being with her again for the first time, but the way it was so hurried and spontaneous . . . that felt like us, too.

When she pushed against my arm so she could sit up, I shifted in my seat, reaching to zip my pants and fasten my belt.

“What the hell?” she asked, looking out the window. Her surprised tone burst through my sex haze. “Is this your house? Why are we here?”

“You wanted to go to your place?”

Shrugging, she said, “I just assumed we would. I don’t have any of my things here.”

“I don’t have anything at your place, either.”

“But I have spare toothbrushes. Do you have spare toothbrushes?”

What the f**k is she talking about?

“You can use mine. What the fuck?”

Sighing, she opened her door and mumbled, “Such a man.”

“To be clear,” I said, getting out of the car and following her up the walkway, “I brought you here because this is where I was going to bring you after San Diego. I was going to tie you to my headboard and spank the f**k out of you. And I intend that again, after everything you put me through.”

Chloe stopped where she stood on my porch, her back to me for several long, confusing seconds before she turned to stare at me. “What did you just say?”

“Did I stutter?” I asked, and when she just continued to stare, I explained, “Yes, we were apart because I was a jerk. But so were you.”

Her eyes narrowed and grew dark. I was half scared, and half thrilled as f**k that she was about to blow up at me. She backed me to my front door, her fist curling tight around my tie before she yanked down, pulling me so our faces were nearly even. Her dark eyes were wild and wide. “Give me your keys.”

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled them out, depositing them in her waiting palm without question.

I watched as she flipped through them and actually found the right key on the first guess. “It’s the top lock and the—”

She cut me off with a fingertip to my lips. “Shh. No talking.”

I tried to puzzle out what was happening. Obviously she hadn’t expected me to tease her about leaving me the way she did. Maybe she suspected we’d left all of that discussion in the conference room where we reunited. And I suppose in many ways we had. I didn’t need her to apologize, and I didn’t feel like I needed to apologize anymore. But our separation had been a shitty few months, so it didn’t feel like the conversation about it was entirely over. Besides, spanking her seemed like the most appropriate way to work it all out of our systems.

Her hand didn’t fumble behind me as she slipped the key into the lock. I heard the familiar squeak and click, then she pushed the door open and backed me over the threshold.

“Straight back to my living room,” I offered. “Or down the hall to my bed.”

I could sense her steering me to the living room, her eyes moving between my face, her hand on my tie, and the house behind her. It was, after all, the first time she was seeing my home.

“It’s nice,” she whispered, seeming to decide what she was doing with me as she pulled me up short. “It’s so clean. It’s so . . . you.”

As if remembering that she was punishing me for something, she threw me a stern look. “Stay here.”

She left and although I was tempted to see what she was up to, I followed her instruction. After only a few seconds she returned with one of my high-backed dining room chairs. Once she had it situated behind me, she pressed on my shoulders to urge me to sit down.

Turning, she walked over to my sound system, picked up the remote, and scanned the buttons.

“Shh.” Without turning, Chloe held up a single hand to quiet me.

I closed my mouth, jaw tense. She was stretching my patience a little. If she hadn’t indicated that I was supposed to stay seated, and I didn’t suspect she wanted to play, I would have had her flat on her stomach by then and already yanked her ass in the air for a spanking.

After only a few moments, a smooth, pulsing rhythm slid into the room with a woman’s husky voice layered on top. Chloe hesitated at the stereo, shoulders moving with her deep, nervous breaths.

“Baby, come here,” I whispered, hoping she heard me over the music.

She turned, returning to me and standing so close that her thighs pressed against my knees. My face was at her chest level, and I couldn’t help but lean forward, kiss her breast through her shirt. But her hands came up and pushed my shoulders back so that I was again sitting up straight.

She followed my body, moving to straddle my lap. With both hands, she reached forward and toyed with my tie.

“What you said outside . . . ,” she whispered. “Maybe we do need to talk some more.”

“But if you don’t want to do it now, we can go to your room and you can do everything you want to me.” She lifted her gaze to my face, dark eyes searching. “We can talk later.”

“I’ll talk about anything you want.” I swallowed, and smiled up at her. “Then I’ll take you to my bed and do everything I want.”

I could hardly catch my breath. I reached up to undo the top button of my shirt, but she caught my hand and pulled it down, her eyebrow raised in silent question.

Slowly, she undid my tie until it was wrapped around her fist like a boxer’s tape. I was so turned on by this power in her that when she moved my hands to the side of the chair, I didn’t really notice. My c**k grew uncomfortably hard, and I shifted my h*ps to adjust the angle in my pants, my heart pounding beneath my ribs. What the f**k was she going to do?

“Tell me you love me,” she whispered.

My heart was racing and my blood seemed to pound through my veins. “I love you. Wildly. I’m . . .” I’d imagined this a thousand different times, but this moment felt way too loaded and my words came out in a breathless rush. Taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, I murmured, “I’m wildly in love with you.”

“But you were mad at me when I left.”

My stomach tightened. Was this going to turn into a fight? And would that be a good or a bad thing?

Chloe leaned forward, kissed my chin, my lips, my cheek. She slid her mouth to my ear.

And then I felt a tug around my wrists; she had bound my hands behind the chair with my tie. “It’s okay,” she said. “Don’t worry. I just want to talk about it.”

She wanted to talk about it, wanted to feel comfortable hearing how it had affected me, how I’d been angry. But she needed me tied up first? I smiled, turning to catch her lips in a kiss.

“Yes, I was mad at you. I was mostly heartbroken, but I was angry, too.”

“Tell me why you were mad.” Her mouth moved farther away from mine, to my neck, and she sucked along my skin while I considered how to answer.

It felt like our breakup had happened a million years ago, but also like it happened only earlier today. The fact that she was here, straddling my lap and kissing me, reminded me that this was in many ways ancient history. But the way my chest twisted at the memory of her leaving me . . . it felt too close.

“You never let me explain, or apologize. I called. I went over to your place. I would have done anything to work it out.”

She didn’t say anything, didn’t try to defend herself. Instead, she stood and stepped away, bending to unfasten the strap of her heels. She stepped out of them, returning to me, running her fingers into my hair and pulling my face against her chest.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to transition from hate-fucking to being in love,” I said into the soft fabric of her top. “And the first time I messed up you left me.”

She slipped the top button free on her jeans, slowly pulled the zipper down, and then peeled them off her legs. In a few more seconds, her shirt joined her jeans on the floor. She stood before me, completely na**d but for her bra and tiny red lace panties. In the shadowed room, her skin looked like silk.

“I’d only realized that I loved you, that maybe I had been in love with you for a while, and then suddenly you were gone.” I looked up at her, hoping I hadn’t gone too far.

She slid over my lap, and I wanted more than anything to have my hands free to run up her strong thighs. Instead, I stared at where her legs parted over me, just a few inches away from my cock.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. I blinked up in surprise. “I wouldn’t change it, because I did what I needed to do at the time. But I know it hurt you, and I know it wasn’t fair to just shut you out.”

I nodded, tilting my chin so she would come closer and kiss me. Her mouth pressed to mine, soft and wet, and a tiny moan escaped her lips.

“Thank you for coming this morning,” she said against me.

“Would you have come to me?” I asked.

“Tomorrow morning. After I’d finished my presentation. I’d decided that about a week ago.”

I groaned, leaning forward to kiss her. She arched away so instead I kissed her chin, and down her throat.

“Did you see anyone else while we were apart?”

I stopped and gaped up at her. “What—is that a serious question? No.”

A smile spread across her face. “I just needed to hear it.”

“If you let another man touch you, Chloe, I swear to God, I—”

“Settle down, Trigger.” She pressed two fingertips to my mouth. “I didn’t.”