Re-released in a second edition with updates.
Shattered by the loss of his wife, Callum Reed is a man surrounded by rules designed to protect him. He rebuilds his life with careful discipline, but can’t deny what he feels when he meets the lovely Gabrielle Sullivan. She’s everything he wants in a woman, but he views all relationships as contractual. Despite her misgivings, Gaby signs his contract and becomes his perfect partner. Until the night she breaks his cardinal rule.
After three years of perfect obedience, Gaby declares she wants love and she isn’t settling for less. Love isn’t in their contract, so Cal lets her go. But Gaby has a secret reason for leaving. When Cal discovers the truth, nothing will stop him from following her.
On a secluded island paradise, Callum will do anything to prove he’s the perfect husband for his defiant love.
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“Hello, Cal,” she said evenly. “How are you?”
He looked her up and down, his dark blue eyes showing absolutely no expression. Those eyes assessed her, roaming every inch of her body in a decidedly clinical fashion. “I’ve been perfectly fine, Gabrielle. How have you been?”
His hand was suddenly on her elbow. Her skin tingled where he touched her. He didn’t pull at her, merely squeezed gently, and she let him lead her. Yes, that was a force of habit, too, but perhaps her Irish friend was right. If they had any hopes of being comfortable around each other, they had to talk. They began walking slowly away from the pool.
“I’m well.” That could have come out a little stronger. She sounded like a scared rabbit and that wasn’t at all the impression she wanted to make on Cal.
“That’s nice.” Naturally, his voice sounded perfectly even. He could be negotiating a deal rather than talking to an old lover. “From the evil glances I’m getting from some very old friends, I would think I had tried to kill you.”
“I’m sorry, what?” This wasn’t the way she’d expected their first meeting to go. She’d kind of avoided thinking about it.
His jaw went tight. “I’m talking about all my friends looking at me like I’m some kind of criminal. I’ll admit I haven’t exactly been social lately, but I didn’t expect to walk into a party and find myself completely unwelcome. The only thing that’s changed is the status of our relationship, so I’m wondering what’s been said about me.”
Damn Heather and her big mouth. It was supposed to be a secret. She smiled brightly and slipped her arm through Cal’s. Yes, she needed to handle this. She’d never intended to make anyone hate Cal. He simply hadn’t been able to love her.
She had no interest in the two of them becoming a focus of gossip. If she seemed comfortable with her ex-lover, perhaps the other guests wouldn’t talk about them. She tried to look nonchalant. “I have no idea why. I haven’t seen any of these people since I left town ten months ago. Maybe it’s me they’re wary of.”
“I doubt that, pet,” Cal said, all silky and smooth. His voice had a direct line to her soft parts. “Even my oldest friend seems to have turned on me. Greg barely spoke to me this evening. His friendliest words were to tell me to leave you alone. I swear, Gabrielle, if he didn’t need me to broker his deals, he might not talk to me at all. Now I wonder why that is.”
Gaby flushed, guilt flooding her system. She truly hadn’t meant to hurt him, but she didn’t want to rehash the end of their relationship. She’d kept the secret this long. There was no reason he should know about it now. “I don’t know. I have never spoken to Greg about us.”
“I’m sure Heather talks enough.”
Gaby felt her heels sink into the grass as they left the deck. The evening grew darker as the lights from the torches got further away. The gazebo in the distance seemed to be Cal’s destination. She followed willingly. If they were going to talk, it was best to do it in private.
“I can’t control Heather’s mouth. That’s supposed to be Greg’s job. He’s her husband, after all.”
Cal helped her up the gazebo’s steps. He was always solicitous. It was one of the first things to attract her. He was a Dom of the first order. Gaby had been looking for someone like Callum since the day she realized there was a whole world out there for people like her. She’d gone through a couple of men who claimed to be Doms but really just used it as an excuse to be selfish. A real Dominant was someone like Cal, who always took care of her, even if he didn’t love her.
“Well, as it was pointed out to me recently, a Dom only has as much control as his sub allows him.” His deep blue eyes were almost black in the moonlight and there were lines around them that hadn’t been there before. There was a weariness to his frame that called to her. She fought the urge to smooth down his tie and snuggle in his arms. He wasn’t hers to take care of anymore. He turned to her. “So what have you been up to since you left?”
Her hand unconsciously went to her breast, thinking of the pain that centered there. “This and that.”
He leaned back, staring at her as though trying to decide something. “I never could figure you out, Gabrielle. I didn’t know if you were simply content to be kept or if there was some ambition lurking under the placid surface.”
The darkness was a welcome ally as she felt herself flush. If they’d been under even the soft lights of the party, he would have known how much that hurt. “Well, you weren’t interested in my ambitions.”
He shrugged. “I just wondered what you did all day.”
Her laugh was bitter and without an ounce of humor. “I ate bonbons and watched soaps. I counted the hours until you got home.” She turned away from him and looked out over the yard. In the distance, her friends mingled and laughed. She still seemed so far away from them. Maybe she would always seem far away now.
Distance had given her some perspective, especially when it came to her old Dom. “You weren’t interested in who I was as a person, Callum. You were interested in who I was as a sub. My submissive self was docile and sweet. That was what mattered to you. I didn’t ask questions or make demands. It was a D/s relationship. It wasn’t a love affair.”
She knew the difference now.
His fingers ran across the exposed skin of her shoulders and she held on to the railing of the gazebo. The spaghetti straps that held her dress up offered little protection against his gentle assault. She shivered at the touch.
“And you don’t want that anymore, do you? You don’t want a man to dominate you? You don’t want a man to take charge?”
Oh, there were certainly parts of her that did. His hands ran down to her waist, settling on her hips. Push him away. Do it now or this is going to go poorly. You are not capable of handling this.
But she’d waited too long. When he pressed his groin against her backside, she could feel the hard ridge of his erection, and she knew she wasn’t going to walk away.
It was only sex. Sex with Callum had been mind-blowingly good. There wasn’t any reason she couldn’t enjoy it again as long as she held herself apart. It had been so long. And tomorrow morning, she would be on a flight back to her island, where she was surrounded by gorgeous men she couldn’t fuck because they were either an employee or a guest. She was starting over. Shouldn’t she honor her past with one last nice night?
Yeah, her girl parts were super stupid and they were firmly in control.
Cal pressed his hard dick against her and her brain no longer mattered. That dick had been the best she’d ever had and her whole body reacted. It was like her body knew what it had been through in the last ten months and was demanding payment. That big, hard dick was payment for all the pain.
She could handle it. Hell, after what she’d been through, she could handle anything.
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog in the world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.