Or could she see the guy who was keeping secrets from her while demanding she be open about hers?
Without any warning, she ran to him, burying her head into his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Seth. This is hard for me.”
He wrapped his arms around her, running his fingers through her tresses. Any doubts he had about keeping his secrets vanished in that instant. She was opening up to him in a way he suspected she wouldn’t have if his supposed status hadn’t forced her to. Though he wasn’t an advocate for lying, he felt justified.
Well, mostly justified.
Maybe his doubts hadn’t completely vanished after all.
He couldn’t think about that, couldn’t dwell on his guilt. He had to stay centered on her, help her through her issues. “I’m sorry it’s so hard for you. I think I can understand.”
“You can?” Her voice was muffled in the fabric of his T-shirt. How much of a girl would he be if he said this was his new favorite shirt?
“Yeah, I understand.” He spoke carefully, voicing his suspicions. “The spanking makes you feel…dirty.”
Her head nodded into his chest.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice choked.
He kissed her temple. “Especially because you like it.”
Gripping her gently by the upper arms, he pushed her away just enough that he could bend to look at her directly. Her eyes were brimming with tears. He’d hit the nail on the head. Even though he’d suspected, it wrenched his gut to see her so uncomfortable with herself. With who she was. Why was it always the women who exuded the most confidence were the most fragile inside? “But it doesn’t make you either of those things, you know.”
When she lowered her head, he squeezed her arms. “Heather? You know that, right?”
This time she met his gaze. “I know. Well, I’m starting to know.”
“Keep going in that direction.” He cupped her chin with his hand and ran his thumb over her cheek. “And if you feel uncomfortable, talk to me.”
“But we don’t really talk about anything. We fight. And make out.” Her teeth grazed her lower lip. “Not that I’m complaining.”
“We’re talking now.”
“So we are.” She dabbed at the corner of her eye. “It’s kind of nice.”
“It’s a whole lot nice.”
She stepped out of his arms, refusing to meet his eyes, and he could sense she felt awkward about the emotions she’d displayed. “Can I ask you something? While we’re talking and all.” Or maybe she felt awkward about what she had to say next.
“The, uh, spanking and stuff.” She crossed behind the armchair before turning to face him, leaning on the chair back as if she needed the support. “Are you, like, a Dominant?”
So she’d been doing some research. Interesting. “I like to dominate. But I’m not a Dominant.” Not that he’d ever tried it, but it seemed like too much work and planning. He was more impulsive. “I don’t go to sex clubs or any of that crap either.”
“Then you aren’t expecting me to, um, you know, wear a collar and kneel in front of you and let you tie me up while you whip me and stuff?”
“Well, you’ve already knelt in front of me of your own accord.” He loved that he could make her blush so easily. “And tying you up sounds like a whole helluva lot of fun. But no, I’m not into the collars or whips or chains or any of that Mistress/Sir shit. I like to be in charge. And I like it rough.” He gave her a sly smile. “I’m willing to try new things if that’s what you’re into though.”
“No!” She nearly jumped with her emphatic denial. Her color deepened, and when she spoke again, she was calmer. “No, that’s okay. I just wanted to know what I was in for. If we had sex again, I mean.”
“Oh, we will.” He didn’t think she could blush any further but apparently she could. Damn, she looked good all pink. He needed to touch her. Crossing to her, he held out his hand. She took it, surprisingly, and he led her to the couch where he sat before pulling her next to him.
With his arm around her, she leaned into him. It was instantly comfortable and easy. He played with her hair, wrapping it around his fingers and releasing it again. “What about you? How do you like your sex?”
“I’m not really sure anymore. I’ve never been a prude. I mean, I’ve always liked sex. But I was raised to believe…” She paused and he could hear her swallow. “My father acted like kissing guys made me a whore. It put a damper on a lot of my sexual experiences because there’s always this guilt thing hanging over me.”
No wonder the spanking had bothered her. “That’s tough.”
“Yeah. It is. The sex itself hasn’t always been as fulfilling as it could have been. I’ve never experimented though, because of the guilt. Always stuck to the basics.”
He wondered briefly what basic meant. Like, missionary only? But she’d moved on before he could ask.
“And the guys I’ve been with have been…” He grimaced at the thought of her with other men. “I don’t know…gentle. Overly gentle. As if I needed to be served or adored or whatever.”
“They treated you like a princess?” He chuckled.
“Don’t even…” She sighed. “Yes.” Lifting her head to look at him, she said, “Now you’re going to say it’s because I act like a princess so what do I expect, right?”
“Not at all. It’s because you act like a princess that I think you need to be a little bit manhandled.”
“I think you’re right.” She pivoted her body and draped her legs across his lap. This was nice, they could face each other more easily now.
“So then, with me. I know it was only the one time, but was it missing anything?”
“It was. It was missing a proper ending. I shouldn’t have freaked.”
“We’re past that. No worries.” He rubbed his hand up and down her leg, delighting in the goose bumps that rose on her arms. “But before the ending…”
“It was good, Seth. Really good.”
“Yeah.” She lowered her eyes. “Though there could have been kissing.” Her eyes lifted again to meet his. “I like kissing.”
“I do too.” They held the gaze for several seconds. Then talking about it wasn’t enough. He had to kiss her. He leaned in toward her and she, understanding, brought her face in to meet his.