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I rest my hand on his elbow after taking a step closer. Looking up into his face, our eyes meet and hold. My stomach flips and falls to the floor shattering like a china bowl when I speak. My brain and my heart battle, but my brain is defeated. It's waving flags like a lunatic running across a battlefield, more likely to get killed than solve anything.



I see them exploding. The tattered fabric waves from the end of the pole, burning. Fire slowly consumes the cloth until there's nothing left.

It's one of those times my mind operates on instinct, showing me what will happen if I do this—it solves nothing, and his pain will still be there in the morning. I'll only destroy myself in the process.

"Let's go," I say, trying to hide the tremor in my voice. "Take what you need and don't ask me again. My answer is yes."


The crazy chick inside my brain is dancing naked with the burning flag. She skips around like a cracked-out banshee, enjoying this. I chose it, right? I should like things I select for myself. I love Sean, but OMG.

I'm standing in the upstairs room and glancing around. The floors are polished stone, and the walls are bare, except for some racks hanging from the ceiling. They seem like they should hold rakes and shovels, but they're empty. Where the hell are brooms!

There are no windows up here. No clock. Very little light. No chandelier. The stone beneath my feet is chilled, but it's not what has me frozen in place. It's something else, something resembling a pool, but I'm not that dumb. It's a slim, clear case about five feet tall, with a hinged top that stands open. Above it dangles a narrow pipe that almost looks like it belongs on a kitchen sink. My eyes fixate on the holes in the lid of the plastic prison.

My heart is ready to tear out of my chest and run the fuck away. We are so far past nightmare territory. It's a combination of dreams, fears, and reoccurring horrors I try to erase from my mind on a daily basis.

Worry pinches my brow no matter how hard I try to act like this is normal. Because everyone builds a shed with a torture chamber in the attic on their property. I don't realize I'm holding my breath until I suck in a gasp and feel my lungs burn.

"I can't do this." Terror streaks through me, crying out for sane Avery to save me from the naked nut dancing in my mind, chanting that I can do anything!

Sean grabs me by the wrist, preventing me from bolting butt-naked across the yard. At this point, Henry Thomas seems sane. Then again, this is his house.

Sean's voice is firm. "We talk. We never run away. Sit." He points to the floor, and the command sounds a little too dog and master for me.

"Do you—? That's what nightmares are made of, Sean!" I stutter, pointing—not sitting—and trying to make my mouth say real words, because holy fuckbunnies! No! I shake my head vigorously and step away from him.

"Avery, you don't even know what I want to do." He smiles like this is funny.

I slap his chest and yell at him. My head aches as I scream with my hands balled into fists at my sides. "This is not all right! I can't even fathom how this is here, why there's an Avery-sized fish tank in Henry's shed." I blink furiously and bellow, "Wherearethebrooms!" It comes out in a crazy rush so that it sounds like one word. My arms are tense, and I fling them out in front of me, palms up, making a very logical point with a very irrational man.

His response is a soft smile and light laughter. He grins so adoringly at me that a dimple appears on his cheek beneath all that scruff, along with a lopsided smile that's more coy than menacing. He tries to take my hands, but I scream something incoherently, and he backs away. "You want a broom? Why?"

"You think I'm asking weird questions? Are you fucking serious? Why is that tank the same size as me? Why are there plastic thingies that appear very similar to manacles right where my hands would be? Why Sean?" I get up in his face and poke his chest. I feel crazy, like I should run away.

"Stop thinking. This is about feeling."


Still smiling, he steps toward me with a scrap of silk in his hand. "Then stop looking." He moves behind me, lifting the piece of my former slip and placing it over my eyes.

As he's tightening it, getting ready to tie a knot, my hand darts up and jerks it away. Whirling, around, I plead, "You won't hurt me. Promise me that, say it." The words are all air, and I'm beyond panicked.

Sean reaches for my face, cupping my cheeks. "Do you trust me?"

I watch him for a few moments without speaking. I do, but this is too much. I finally feel myself nodding. Sean moves behind me again and ties the blindfold in place.


I expect my wrists and ankles to follow, but he remains at my back and pulls me to him.

His body is hot, and his skin is slightly damp with sweat. It makes me wonder what he was doing before I came up. His voice is in my ear, but his hands travel from my outer thigh over the swell of my hips and to my waist. "Breathe for me. Slowly, deeply." I feel him inhale, his chest pressing to my back as he does it. I'm close to shaking, but I manage to take the next breath with him. We breathe together and by the third breath, I'm no longer shaking.

His hands begin to roam, sliding over my skin, tenderly sweeping his palm over my breasts and then down to my waist again. His neck is next to mine, his lips right by my ear. His breath is warm and perfect. I feel his whiskers against my skin when he moves, as he breathes.

Worry pinches my brow as I start to think about the tank again, and Sean can tell. His voice is in my ear, "Stop thinking."

"I'm not."

"You are." He nips my earlobe, pressing the soft flesh between his teeth and grazing the skin. I gasp, not expecting the accompanying swirling sensation in my lower body. His lips travel down my throat to the hollow of my neck where he licks my skin with gentle strokes of his tongue.

I melt. My knees no longer want to hold me, and the worried girl runs off with the flag chick, leaving my thoughts on nothing but the way I feel at that moment. His hot lips on my neck do something to me. It's that spot, nearly to the back, that turns my knees to jelly and makes my head feel woozy. I could get lost in that kiss, forget who I am and where we are.

There's a veil that can't be seen fighting to cover my mind from within. The longer his lips stay on that spot, the more I moan and reach back for him. I touch his hair, tangling it in my fingers, pulling. My back arches away from him, but that only makes Sean hold on tighter. His lips devour me, his tongue working that place until I can't stand.

I don't know how he moved me, but I'm pressing face first into a wall. The cold plaster makes me suck in audibly, but that sensation is fleeting. Sean's hands travel up and down my body as he battles me for control of my mind. That spot is so sensitive, so vulnerable. I feel a haze try to descend on my subconscious, but I won't allow it. It nearly swallows me whole when his hands cup my breasts. It comes close to overtaking me when his hand slips between my thighs, pressing me harder to the wall, stealing my breath away.

I shiver beneath him, wishing I could let go the way he wants. I did it before, but it's rare. As much as he likes control, so do I. Letting that irrational nude dancing girl overtake me sounds like an insanely stupid idea, but his lips and the repetitive smooth stroking of his hands convince me.

A sound comes from the back of my throat as my head tips back against his shoulder. I press my hips down, craving more pressure. He has me so turned on, so hot. I stand there blindly, facing the wall with my hands rooted to the plaster like a cop is patting me down in a very naughty way.

His lips pass over that sensitive spot, and my knees give out. Sean's leg presses between my legs and holds me up, pressing me to the wall. I can't stop thinking about taking him in my mouth, kneeling in front of him, and doing anything he wants.

The tank.

I can't stop thinking about it. I don't want to go in there. I can't let him do that to me. My eyes flick open, and I'm staring at cream-colored silk. I reach to pull the blindfold off, but Sean grabs both my wrists and pins me to the wall.

I feel him close to me, his warm breath in my ear, "That stays on, Miss Smith, and if you want your hands free, I suggest you listen. Keep your palms on the wall when I release you."

I do as he says and then feel a cold rush of air on my back. He's stepped away. His voice comes from somewhere behind me. "Spread your legs shoulder width apart. Keep your hands where they are, and don't move."