“Knox?”

“Hmm?” He asked, folding his jeans and tossing them on top of his dresser.

I found my courage and took a step closer, tugging on the hem of my borrowed T-shirt. “When we said we were gonna do this, a real relationship…to me that meant everything that came along with a relationship.” Several long moments ticked by while my heart beat thudded dully in my chest.

“Say we do this thing for real – then what?” Frustrated, his hands tore through his hair, leaving it in a sexy disarray.

“What do you mean? We agree to be there for each other, we both try.”

“And if I f**k up? If I hurt you….” He stared blankly at the wall above my head. “I couldn’t…I wouldn’t chance that.” I knew there was more he wasn’t saying. I’d already been through too much with my parents. I was damaged and he wouldn’t be part of contributing to my hurt any more than he already had. I hated that I could never seem to escape my past, no matter how hard I worked.

“Isn’t that for me to decide?”

His eyes slid back to mine. “You believe in me way too much.”

“Someone’s got to, Knox. I’ve seen the real you. The one you keep hidden from everyone else. You’re a good man, despite what you want me to believe.”

“You refuse to see the bad in me.”

“So tell me, then. What’s so bad about you?” I was edging into dangerous territory. We’d never really covered his background in detail and I wasn’t sure I could handle it, but I was putting on my bravest front to show him that I wouldn’t be scared off. Who cared if prickles of sweat were forming against the back of my neck and my knees felt shaky? It was a conversation that needed to happen.

“You really want to hear the shit I’ve done?”

Suddenly losing my nerve, my lips parted, but no sound came out.

Knox took a step closer, his gaze hardening. “You want to hear that I f**ked a mother and her eighteen-year-old daughter in the same day? That I broke up my buddy’s engagement when I accepted a blowjob from his fiancée? That because of this sick need inside me I’ve pushed every boundary, every limit? That I enjoy anal sex and the occasional ménage? Is that what you want to hear? You can’t handle me, angel. I can barely f**king handle me.”

The air whooshed from my lungs, my confidence vanishing. For the first time I began to doubt him – us – my belief that this could work falling away like a veil in the wind. He would want things I couldn’t possibility give him.

“Say something,” he ordered, taking a predatory step closer.

“I get it, okay? You made your point. You’re experienced. I’m not.”

“That wasn’t my point. Not at all.” He hung his head, looking down at the floor, his hands returning to his hair once again. “I’m sick, not a man worthy of you,” he whispered.

My heart broke for him. He deserved love and acceptance even if he couldn’t see that. “The things you’ve done don’t scare me. I just worry I won’t measure up to your past.”

He stepped closer, wrapping a hand around my hip to draw me nearer until we were just inches apart. It didn’t escape my notice that he was dressed in only a pair of black boxer briefs. “You have it backwards. My past doesn’t measure up to you.” His voice was whispery soft and his mouth was brushing against my ear, sending delicious little shivers racing down my spine. He pressed a tender kiss against the side of my neck and my head fell back, my body craving more. His warm tongue slid against my pulse point, which was fluttering wildly. “I can read your fear, your uncertainty. You’re not ready for this.”

Finding my voice, I whispered, “So show me.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying, what you’re agreeing to.”

We’d spoken only briefly about his dominant nature, but that word hung in the air all around us, its hidden meaning permeating my every pore. Maybe I couldn’t handle his brand of physical affection. But what he’d shown me so far had been tender and intimate. Would sex with Knox really be so different? His tastes and desires were unknown to me, but most of me found that exciting. Nerves raced through my belly as he nipped at my neck. “If we do this, Knox…have a real relationship, you’d have to show me….” I breathed, finding my courage.

He squeezed me tighter. “If we do this, you have to tell Brian about us.”

I giggled. Such an alpha male thing to say, laying his claim to me and wanting it known by all. “Of course I will. But stop avoiding this conversation. ”

“What conversation are we having, McKenna?” He sucked the skin at the base of my neck, pressing sweet kisses against my collarbone.

“Sex,” I murmured.

“You’re not ready yet,” he said. I pulled back and gave him a quizzical look. Was he serious right now? “I’ll know when you’re ready,” he continued. “You need to trust me.” His hands cupped my cheeks and he pressed a kiss to my forehead. I didn’t want to be treated like a china doll. I’d waited long enough for this moment in my life and I was sure.

“And you need to trust me.” I might be damaged, but I was stronger than he was giving me credit for. I could handle this. Couldn’t I?

He watched me with hooded eyes, taking stock of everything he saw – every emotion and stray thought racing through my brain. My entire body was alive and humming. It was as though he could see straight into me and read all my inner thoughts. It was the oddest sensation.

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