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Josslyn found perfection once, and she knows she’ll never find it again. Now widowed, she seeks the one thing her beloved husband couldn’t give her. Dominance. Lonely and searching for an outlet for her grief and wanting only a brief taste of the perfection she once enjoyed, she seeks what she’s looking for at an exclusive club that caters to people indulging in their most hedonistic fantasies. She never imagined that what she’d find is the one man who’s long been a source of comfort—and secret longing. Her husband’s best friend.
Dash has lived in an untenable position for years. In love with his best friend’s wife and unwilling to act on that attraction. He’d never betray his best friend. And so he’s waited in the wings, offering Joss unconditional support and comfort as she works past her grief, hoping for the day when he can offer her more.
When he finds her in a club devoted to the darker edges of desire, he’s furious because he thinks she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. Until she explains in detail what it is she wants. What she needs. As realization sets in, he is gripped by fierce, unwavering determination. If she wants dominance, he is the only man who will introduce her to that world. He is the only man who will touch her, cherish her…love her. And the only man she’ll ever submit to.
“It’ll be okay, honey. Now come inside so we can talk.”
She nodded and he got out quickly, walking around to collect her from the car. He led her inside his house, satisfaction gripping him that she was in his space. Finally.
Though they’d spent plenty of time together over the last years, it had always been in a neutral location. Or her own home, the one she’d shared with Carson. The last time she’d been in his house was when Carson was still alive, and the couple had been frequent visitors back then.
He curled his arm around Joss’s waist as he ushered her through the foyer and into the living room. She stiffened but made no move to distance herself from him. She was too busy looking like she was waiting for the anvil to drop from the sky on her head.
When they entered the living room, he loosened his hold and took a step away, dragging a hand raggedly through his hair. Then he turned, not sure how exactly to pose the questions burning his tongue. Fuck it. He only knew one way. Blunt.
“What the hell were you doing in The House tonight, Joss?” he demanded.
She flinched at the fury in his tone and her eyes became shadowed.
“You have no idea what you’re getting into by being there,” he continued. “No idea at all. Do you have any clue what could happen to you? What Craig would have done to you? Let me tell you. He would have had you bent over while he flogged your pretty ass and then he would have fucked you without mercy, uncaring of your pleasure. It would have been all about his own. He would have taken you and used you and wouldn’t have given a damn about you or your pleasure. What the hell were you thinking?”
She wet her lips, her eyes going glossy with tears. Ah hell. The last thing he wanted was to make her cry when she’d made it the entire day, or at least the time she’d spent with him, without shedding a single tear.
“I do understand, Dash,” she said quietly. “I understand far more than you think.”
His brow furrowed. “Have you been going to The House before tonight?”
She shook her head. “No. This was my first night.”
“Jesus Christ, Joss. What the hell? Do you have any idea what might have happened to you if I hadn’t been there? There is no way in hell I’m allowing you to go back to that place. You don’t belong there.”
Her lips quivered and then she seemed to mentally shake herself. She steeled her features and leveled a firm stare at him.
“I know exactly what I was doing. You don’t understand, Dash. You’d never understand.”
“Try me,” he challenged.
She stared at him a long moment, her eyes uncertain, almost as if she were trying to decide whether to trust him. He was on edge, because damn it, he wanted her to be able to come to him for anything. Anything at all. And he wanted her trust.
Then she closed her eyes and sank onto the couch, sitting forward, her face buried in her hands. Her shoulders shook and it was all he could do not to go to her. Not to comfort and hold her and tell her everything would be all right. But he waited. Because whatever she had to tell him, he sensed was huge. And that it would forever change the way he looked at her. At any possibility of them being together.
She lifted her head, her eyes swimming in tears. “I loved Carson with all my heart and soul. He was my soul mate. I know that. And I know I’ll never find that kind of love again.”
Dash’s breath caught and held because that wasn’t something he wanted to hear. That she’d resigned herself to a loveless existence because she didn’t think another man would ever love her as Carson had. When in fact, Dash was that man. He already loved her—had loved her forever—and given the opportunity, he’d show her that she damn well could find another man who’d give her his everything.
“Carson gave me everything I could ever possibly want or ask for. Except . . .”
She broke off and looked down again, her shoulders sagging in defeat.
“Except what, Joss?” Dash asked softly, puzzled by her statement. He knew damn well Carson would have given her the moon. Anything that was in his power to provide Joss, he would have done absolutely.
“Dominance,” Joss whispered.
Dash’s nape prickled and a curl of . . . hope? Quivered through his veins. His pulse raced and he had to calm himself and clarify that he’d heard her correctly. Because there was a whole lot he didn’t understand.
Maya Banks is the #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today and bestselling author of the Surrender Trilogy. Her other chart toppers have included erotic romance, romantic suspense, contemporary romance, and Scottish historical romance. She lives in the South with her husband, three children and a variety of pets. Visit her online at www.mayabanks.com, www.facebook.com/AuthorMayaBanks, and twitter.com/maya_banks.