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By My Side Michele Zurlo 2022/8/3 13:56:57

“I told you to cancel it.”

She rose to her feet because there was no way she could sit still under the force of his glare. Breaking eye contact, she paced to the window so she could focus on the pretty summer flowers blooming outside. “This means too much to you. And Gretchen would never have canceled in the first place if I hadn’t interfered. I’m sorry. I never meant to mess this up for you.”

The silence behind her pulled at her conscience, and she turned back to find his glare had morphed into bafflement. “How exactly did you interfere?”

“Oasis,” she said. At his incredulous expression, she held up a hand. She hadn’t meant it as a safe word. A sub calling out a safe word could cut a dom to the quick. “They’re a wish-fulfillment service. I wished for a night with you. I didn’t mean for it to mess up your benefit. I really thought I would be able to do what you needed me to do.”

He rubbed his clean-shaven jaw, but the signs of his anger had disappeared. She didn’t know if it scared her more to see he wasn’t angry. Perhaps he had been looking for a way out, and now she’d handed it to him. At least she could give him back his freedom.

Finally he leaned back in the chair. His hands dropped to rest on his thighs, and he didn’t look at her. “You paid a wish-fulfillment service for a night with me?”

Butterflies in her stomach churned her bagel and coffee unpleasantly. She never thought she would have to tell him her dirty little secret, but she owed him an explanation if she had any hope of convincing him to use Gretchen at the benefit.

“Yes.” And she didn’t regret it, but she hated that he could hide his thoughts and emotions from her so completely. “I think they convinced Gretchen to cancel on you. She wouldn’t have done that without their interference.”

He pushed to his feet and closed half the distance between them. He trapped her in the crosshairs of his steady gaze, and she couldn’t move from her position in front of the window. “Cancel the benefit. I’ll make the donation from my private account. The foundation will receive money either way. I always planned to match the amount raised.”

She knew that too. Regret stabbed at her gut, releasing ten kinds of toxic poison. She swallowed tears back. This was no time to cry. She needed to lift her chin and take responsibility for the fallout. “No, Sean. Please don’t punish me like this. I know I messed up. I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t interfere ever again, and I will go quietly if you want to fire me.”

“Punish you? How does this punish you?” He took a step closer. “I don’t want to do a scene with Gretchen or any other woman, Cella. Your arrangement punishes me, and I refuse to accept it.” Two steps and he closed the distance. “I can’t do the benefit with another sub, and I refuse to do it with you. Call me a possessive or a jealous bastard, but I don’t want to dress you in skimpy outfits or parade you naked in front of anyone. I don’t want to share the gift of your submission. It’s mine, Cella. You gave it to me, and unless you take it back, it belongs to me alone.”

Marcella’s heart soared, but guilt tainted his declaration and turned her joy bitter.

He leaned over her, bracing his hands on either side of the window. The oak molding turned his eyes mostly brown, but that didn’t dull the danger glittering from them and emanating from the taut lines of his body. “Are you taking it back?”

She shook her head, the only part of her that could manage to move. “No. I’m not taking it back.”

“Good. Cancel the benefit. You might have wished for a night with me, but you’re getting a whole lot more, my Cella. I’m in love with you.” One hand dropped to grip her hip. “I have been for a long, long time, but I’ve been wary of messing up our relationship by suggesting something you didn’t want. You belong by my side, and I was willing to take you any way I could get you.”

His other hand came down to run a caress along her collarbone. “Now that you’ve contrived to change the nature of our relationship, I’m not letting you go. I’ll take you to the dungeon and help you deal with your guilt later, but you will cancel that benefit and you will stop arguing with me about it.”

No argument came to mind, especially since she’d barely processed anything after he’d declared his love. Her gaze flickered to his lips and back to his eyes. “I love you too, Sean.”

He swooped in and claimed her lips, establishing his ownership and his domination. Then he broke the kiss and backed away. She endeavored to catch her breath while he seemed to return to business mode.