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After dinner, Braydon insisted on helping me load the dishwasher, and then we sat down on the sofa side by side like two nervous teenagers. Actually, I was a nervous wreck, but he seemed calm, cool, and collected, kicking his feet up on the old trunk in front of my couch and throwing his arm across the back of the sofa. He hadn’t brought up anything the entire night about our arrangement. The entire reason he was here, I thought. Instead, he kept up a steady conversation, leaving me waiting in wonder, the anticipation growing more and more with each hour that passed. Seriously, I was not a patient person and the wait was eating me up inside. Was he going to try to make a move on me? Had he changed his mind? Was he still attracted to me? Maybe I should have dressed sexier, curled my hair. . . .

“So tell me more about this arrangement,” I asked finally, unable to wait any longer. Even if I was going to turn him down, something in me wanted to know what exactly he was proposing.

Braydon’s mouth quirked up in a smile. “Are you ready to discuss that now, miss?”

I nodded slowly. Had he been waiting for me to bring it up the whole time? Was his silence on the topic meant to drive me crazy? Oh, he was good. He was damn good.

“What would you like to discuss?” he asked, his voice dropping lower as he turned to face me on the couch.

“How would it, um, work?” Ugh, why did I sound so breathless? I should tell him and his damn pleasure-pals arrangement to take a hike. But something in me couldn’t. I needed to see where this was headed. I had no self-control when it came to this man.

“However we want it to. I’d like to see you a few times a week. We could have a meal, like tonight, and then enjoy each other’s company.” Smooth of him. But I’m pretty sure he meant enjoy my vagina. I suppressed a hot shiver and continued watching him.

“But we wouldn’t be dating. There’d be no commitments.” My heart clenched as I said the words out loud. I waited for him to correct me, to smooth things over, but that didn’t happen.

“That’s right. No expectations of each other. What I’m proposing is that we give into our baser instincts. Let go of inhibitions and discover each other.”

I shook my head, fighting the urge to roll my eyes. I pulled in a deep breath and released it slowly. Inside my brain was an extreme game of Ping-Pong. I wanted this, yet I didn’t. I was so back and forth. I held up a hand, needing a moment to think. I’d sworn off men, right? “Excuse me, I’m just having a problem with your gender lately.”

He continued to watch me closely. “I know what you’re doing. You put up this front, you say that you don’t want a man. It’s only because no one’s been able to properly take care of you.”

“And you think you can?” His confidence was a huge turn-on.

“I know I can. And I will. You just have to let me. Submit to me.”

I wanted to argue, to tell him I was a strong, independent woman; that I didn’t submit to anyone. But the words lodged in my throat, refusing to budge. “I seriously don’t see what’s in this for me.”

“You have to feel this between us,” he whispered, his blue eyes shining with his desire.

I hadn’t felt a connection this deep with someone in a long time, maybe ever, but he couldn’t know that. I stayed quiet and Braydon lifted my hand from my lap, interlacing our fingers and stroking the inside of my palm with his fingertips in featherlight strokes. Every touch from him felt deliberate. I was quickly becoming addicted to every little thing he did. He made my heart flutter. Silly little organ. It didn’t know what was good for it.

I realized with perfect clarity that my body wanted this. Wanted to have a sexual adventure. And he was the perfect candidate to have a fling with. He was sexy and discreet. As far as I knew he hadn’t breathed a word of our little postwedding romp to Ben or Emmy. And he turned my body into a puddle of hormones. There was no denying that. If I were going to have an affair, why not do it with a man who knew what the hell he was doing?

He leaned closer, bringing one hand behind my neck and knotting his fingers in my hair. “You want me to kiss you again,” he said, as if it were a statement of fact. But the tenderness in his tone was unexpected and calmed me instantly. It was crazy how one minute he could rile me up with his talk of “discovering” each other, then turn me on just by touching my hand, then reel me into his world so completely that I couldn’t look away, couldn’t even blink.

One thing was certain. I wanted more. I wanted to see where this could go. There was something magnetic about him. His charm. His personality. Shit, his tongue. That was surely illegal in like forty-nine states. I might as well take advantage.

My disappointing sexual experiences so far had a lot to do with my consideration of his proposal. The few boyfriends I’d had couldn’t have satisfied me if I’d drawn out a treasure map of my vagina with an X-marks-the-spot for my clitoris. Even when the sex had been decent, I’d always craved something more. A man who would take charge. Who knew instinctively what my body craved and gave it to me ruthlessly without me having to ask. I loved the idea of being manhandled a bit. Taken over. The idea alone made me wet.

My whole life was well ordered, from my daily jogs to my job that was actually an exact science, with rules and standardized processes to follow. No wonder I wanted a dirty, risqué adventure in the bedroom. My body battled with my brain. I shouldn’t want what Braydon was offering. Then again, I was missing both the emotional connection of a serious boyfriend and a satisfying sexual relationship in my life. I knew with Braydon I’d be 50 percent of the way there. Not bad odds.

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