Unwilling to risk losing her, he stopped trying to convince her to join the real world. Keeping her busy with deadlines and their Thursday-night pizza dates, he allowed her to convince him she was happy with her life as it was, which in turn, allowed him to hop from bed to bed attempting to satisfy his heavy-handed sexual urges.
Then the damned cat died and he watched his best friend fall apart.
For the first time since he’d met her, Jules stopped writing and Ross realized something else.
He was in love with Julia Martin.
This quirky, intelligent, shy, inquisitive little romance writer had stolen his heart. When he stopped to think about it, she’d stolen it ten years earlier when she’d walked into his dingy little office and struck a book deal with the tenacity of a pit bull. Shy she might be, but stupid she was not.
Over the years, they’d fought long and hard over the development of her craft and he had to admit that of all the writers he had edited and published, Julia’s work was by far the best.
No longer willing to deny his true feelings for her, he was about to put into action the game plan he’d designed a couple of months ago. He was going to claim Jules as his own and all he had to do was open her up to her sensuality, her passion.
The erotica suggestion had been the first test. Ross had suggested she try to write a new genre, then gave her books to expose her to all the types of things he wanted to try with her. One evening, four weeks earlier, had set in motion the chain of events leading to this moment.
He could still recall every word of their conversation that night…
* * *
It nearly killed him to wait until their Thursday-night date to see what she thought of the books he’d given her to read. When he arrived, her face was flushed and she seemed to be having trouble breathing. Glancing at the end table, he saw a copy of one of his favorite BDSM books, Master Lover, lying there.
Gesturing to the book, he cleared his throat. “So, what do you think?”
His Jules was nothing if not painfully honest. “It’s amazing,” she replied. “Do you think there are people who really live like that?”
Ross nearly came in his pants at her forthright question. “Yeah, I’m sure there are.” He shifted slightly before sitting on the couch, adjusting the jeans, which had suddenly become too tight.
“Would you live like that?”
Ross choked on the beer he was drinking.
“Sorry,” she said, grinning sheepishly. “That was an unbelievably personal question. Don’t answer.”
Unsure what to say, Ross grabbed a piece of pizza, using the time to stall and think of a way to respond, a way to keep the conversation going, without giving himself away.
“I don’t think I would like living like that,” she added between bites and Ross’s heart fell to his shoes.
The test was over and he had failed. He wanted to be with Jules more than anything, but any relationship between them was doomed. There was no way he’d be able to hide the darker side of his sexual nature.
Eventually, he would want her tied helpless on the bed. He would want to spank her, control her, fuck every part of her body—her ass, her mouth, her pussy—and according to her, she would balk, reject the idea.
“I mean,” she expounded, unaware of his sudden desolation, “it might be fun to try in bed, but I don’t think I could subscribe to the lifestyle. I’m too set in my ways and there is no way I could let some guy order me around all day, telling me how to dress, where to go, stuff like that.”
The Hallelujah Chorus began playing loudly in Ross’s head. She was willing. He didn’t want the lifestyle either. His Jules was intelligent and independent and he loved her that way. The green light to proceed flashed.
All systems go.
* * *
“Dinner’s ready,” Julia announced, dragging Ross’s thoughts back to the present.
So far his plan had gone like clockwork. She had agreed to try her hand at writing an erotica book and when he suggested she come here to write in solitude, she didn’t blink twice. He’d intended to give her a few days to struggle over starting the book before stopping by to see how she was doing, but the blizzard sped things up. And not necessarily for the worse.
Now he and Jules would be snowed in for days with no chance of escape. All he had to do was convince her that, in the interest of research, perhaps the two of them should try some of the things she was going to write about. His backpack was filled to the brim with sex toys and he intended to introduce her to every one of them.
The meal passed in quiet conversation, the two of them comfortable dinner companions after so many years of friendship.
“How many dinners do you think we’ve eaten together?” she asked casually.