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Page 27

“What are your rules that I have to follow?”

“I have them written down. We’ll go through them once we’ve eaten.”

“I’m really not hungry,” she whispers.

“You will eat.”

The look she gives me is defiant.

“Would you like another glass of wine?” I ask, as a peace offering.

“Yes, please.”

I pour wine into her glass and sit down beside her. “Help yourself to food, Anastasia.”

She takes a few grapes.

That’s it? That’s all you’re eating?

“Have you been like this for a while?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“Is it easy to find women who want to do this?”

Oh, if you only knew. “You’d be amazed.” My tone is wry.

“Then why me? I really don’t understand.” She’s utterly bemused.

Baby, you’re beautiful. Why wouldn’t I want to do this with you?

“Anastasia, I’ve told you. There’s something about you. I can’t leave you alone. I’m like a moth to a flame. I want you very badly, especially now, when you’re biting your lip again.”

“I think you have that cliché the wrong way around,” she says softly, and it’s a disturbing confession.

“Eat!” I order, to change the subject.

“No. I haven’t signed anything yet, so I think I’ll hang on to my free will for a bit longer, if that’s okay with you.”

Oh…her smart mouth.

“As you wish, Miss Steele.” And I hide my smirk.

“How many women?” she asks, and she pops a grape into that mouth.

“Fifteen.” I have to look away.

“For long periods of time?”

“Some of them, yes.”

“Have you ever hurt anyone?”

“Yes.”

“Badly?”

“No.” Dawn was fine, if a little shaken by the experience. And if I’m honest, so was I.

“Will you hurt me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Physically, will you hurt me?”

Only what you can take.

“I will punish you when you require it, and it will be painful.”

For example, when you get drunk and put yourself at risk.

“Have you ever been beaten?” she asks.

“Yes.”

Many, many times. Elena was devilishly handy with a cane. It’s the only touch I could tolerate.

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