I don’t let go. If anything, I clutch it harder. And I do something embarrassing.

He smiles again. “Why not?” His hand is continuing to pull at the blanket, slowly and inexorably. I know he’s doing it this way to prolong the torture. He could easily rip the blanket away from me with one strong tug.

“I don’t want this,” I tell him. I can barely draw in air through the constriction in my chest, and my voice comes out sounding unexpectedly breathy.

He looks amused, but there’s a dark gleam in his eyes. “No? You think I couldn’t feel your reaction to me in the club?”

I shake my head. “There was no reaction. You’re wrong . . .” My voice is thick with unshed tears. “I only want Jake—”

In an instant, his hand is wrapped around my throat. He doesn’t do anything else, doesn’t squeeze, but the threat is there. I can feel the violence within him, and I’m terrified.

He leans down toward me. “You don’t want that boy,” he says harshly. “He can never give you what I can. Do you understand me?”

I nod, too scared to do anything else.

He releases my throat. “Good,” he says in a softer tone. “Now let go of the blanket. I want to see you naked again.”

Again? He must’ve been the one to undress me.

I try to plaster myself even closer to the wall. And still don’t let go of the blanket.

Two seconds later, the blanket is on the floor. As I had suspected, I don’t stand a chance when he uses his full strength.

I resist the only way I can. Instead of standing there and letting him look at my naked body, I slide down the wall until I’m sitting on the floor, my knees drawn up to my chest. My arms wrap around my legs, and I sit there like that, trembling all over. My long, thick hair streams down my back and arms, partially covering me.

I hide my face against my knees. I’m terrified of what he’ll do to me now, and the tears burning my eyes finally escape, running down my cheeks.

“Nora,” he says, and there is a steely note in his voice. “Get up. Get up right now.”

I shake my head mutely, still not looking at him.

“Nora, this can be pleasurable for you or it can be painful. It’s really up to you.”

Pleasurable? Is he insane? My entire body is shaking with sobs at this point.

“Nora,” he says again, and I hear the impatience in his voice. “You have exactly five seconds to do what I’m telling you.”

He waits, and I can almost hear him counting in his head. I’m counting too, and when I get to four, I get up, tears still streaming down my face.

I’m ashamed of my own cowardice, but I’m so afraid of pain. I don’t want him to hurt me.

I don’t want him to touch me at all, but that is clearly not an option.

“Good girl,” he says softly, touching my face again, brushing my hair back over my shoulders.

I tremble at his touch. I can’t look at him, so I keep my eyes down.

He apparently objects to that, because he tilts my chin up until I have no choice but to meet his gaze with my own.

His eyes are dark blue in this light. He’s so close to me that I can feel the heat coming off his body. It feels good because I’m cold. Naked and cold.

Suddenly, he reaches for me, bending down. Before I can get really scared, he slides one arm around my back and another under my knees.

Then he lifts me effortlessly in his arms and carries me to the bed.

He puts me down, almost gently, and I curl into a ball, shaking. He starts to undress, and I can’t help watching him.

He’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and the T-shirt comes off first.

His upper body is a work of art, all broad shoulders, hard muscles, and smooth tan skin. His chest is lightly dusted with dark hair. Under some other circumstances, I would’ve been thrilled to have such a good-looking lover.

Under these circumstances, I just want to scream.

His jeans are next. I can hear the sound of his zipper being lowered, and it galvanizes me into action.

In a second, I go from lying on the bed to scrambling for the door—which he’d left open.

I may be small, but I’m fast on my feet. I did track for ten years and was quite good at it. Unfortunately, I hurt my knee during one of the races, and now I’m limited to more leisurely runs and other forms of exercise.

I make it out the door, down the stairs, and I’m almost to the front door when he catches me.

His arms close around me from behind, and he squeezes me so hard that I can’t breathe for a moment. My arms are completely restrained, so I can’t even fight him. He lifts me, and I kick back at him with my heels. I manage to land a few kicks before he turns me around to face him.

I’m sure he’s going to hurt me now, and I brace myself for a blow.

Instead, he just pulls me into his embrace and holds me tightly. My face is buried in his chest, and my naked body is pressed against his. I can smell the clean, musky scent of his skin and feel something hard and warm against my stomach.

With the way he’s holding me, I’m almost completely helpless. I can neither kick nor scratch him.

So I sink my teeth into his pectoral muscle and hear him curse before he yanks on my hair, forcing me to release his flesh.