He grasped the lower hem, fists bunched at each of my thighs. I was frozen, not breathing…I was pretty sure even my blood had stopped pumping for a moment.

“Such thin cotton…” he murmured, his voice rough with suggestion. “I could rip it apart so easily. Have you bared to me, just that easily. I could kiss you…everywhere.”

I put my hand on his, between his fists, keeping my shirt down. “Roth…don’t….”

“No?” I felt his hands stretch apart, felt the cotton starting to give. “You’re still scared, Kyrie? Don’t you want to feel my lips on your skin? I know you do. You want it. You’re afraid to want it. You’re afraid to give in to me. But you want to, just as much. Have you ever really given yourself to a man before? I don’t think you have. And certainly never to a man like me.”

“A man….” I swallowed hard, fighting for words. He had my brain spiraling, my body shuddering, my blood thundering, my common sense eroding, and my senses humming. “A man like you?”

“Yes, Kyrie. A man like me.” Another tug of his fists, and I heard a distinct rip. “A man who knows exactly what he wants, and exactly how to get it.”

“And…and what do you want?” I was trying so hard to stay calm, and failing miserably.

Rrrrrrip. I felt cool air on my navel.

“To make you come” —rrrripppp— “harder than you ever have in your life.”


“To hear you scream. To feel you tremble under my hands.” Rrrrrrrrrrrriiiip. The shirt was torn open to the space between my boobs. One more tug, and it would come free. “I’m going to make you come so hard you’ll cry.”


“Roth….” I wasn’t sure why I said his name. As a plea? Have mercy? Please, yes, I want that? No clue. Only that his name was all that came out.

“Yes, Kyrie. You’ll be saying that, very loudly. You can scream as loud as you want, sweet thing. No one can hear you.” His words should have terrified me, but they only made my thighs shake and my heart thud with anticipation. “Are you ready?”


“Well, at least you’re honest about it.” Rrrrriiippp. All that held the shirt on my body were the sleeves, and his presence behind me. “You can tell me to stop any time, Kyrie. I will. Immediately.”

Stop. The word wouldn’t come out. I’d stopped breathing again, and had to suck in a lungful of oxygen before I passed out. My hands were trembling at my sides, my eyes squeezed shut. I was still covered, though, the torn shirt resting on the very outer edges of my areolae.

“A twitch of my hands, Kyrie. That’s all it will take. You’ll be bare to me.” He ran his fingertip along my clavicle, toying with the ripped collar of the shirt. “Or…one word from your mouth. But you have to choose. Right now. Tell me to stop, right now. And do you know what will happen if you don’t?”


“I’ll use the shirt as a blindfold, and I’ll lay you down right here, on the floor. I’ll make you come again and again. Until you can’t breathe and can’t move. Until you’re crazy with ecstasy.”

Fuck. I wanted that. Jesus, I did want that. “And—and you?”

“What about me?” He sounded baffled.

“What will you want…from me? In return?”

“What will I want from you? Just your moans, Kyrie. Just the flush on your perfect skin. Nothing but that.” That was too good to be true. That was a lesson I learned early on in life: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. He traced the hollow at the base of my throat with a finger. “Or, tell me to stop. I’ll leave you alone, and you can go to bed. We’ll resume this another night, but for tonight, you’d be…safe.”

Safe. Did I want that safety? Yes, and no. I didn’t doubt his ability to do exactly what he was promising, and I didn’t even want to think about how long it had been since I’d had an orgasm. But I also needed to know if he’d really stop when I asked him to. The trouble was, testing him would leave me aching and frustrated.

It had to be done, though. I’d never be able to totally trust him unless I knew he was as good as his word.

His hands were poised to brush my shirt away and, if that happened, I’d be lost to his touch.

“Stop.” I was proud of myself for getting that word out, for making it sound strong, sure, all the things I wasn’t feeling in that moment.

His hands froze the very moment the word left my mouth. “As you wish.” I felt him step away, and my entire body ached, screamed at me to beg him to come back, touch me, finish it, do as he’d promised he would.

“It’s too much…too soon,” I explained.

“Kyrie…darling, you don’t need to explain yourself. I understand completely.”

“You’re not…mad?” Why the f**k did I care? Why did that come out sounding so ingratiating, so weak, so small? Ugh.

“No, of course not. Perhaps a bit…disappointed. Not in you, per se, but…simply left wanting. I don’t think you grasp the depth of my attraction to and desire for you. But you will.” I smelled him, felt him close, his voice suddenly buzzing in my ear. “You will. You want this. You’re testing me, Kyrie. Don’t think I’ve missed that. So this is me earning your trust. Have I passed your test?”

I squared my shoulders, breathed deeply. Nodded. “Yes, Roth. You have. Thank you.”

“Count to sixty, and then you may go.”


“Goodnight, Kyrie…again.”

“Goodnight, Roth.”

I heard his footsteps recede, and I counted to sixty. I lost count, thinking about how he’d called me “darling.” Eventually I assumed more than a minute had passed, so I went back to my room, clutching the edges of my shirt together. I sat on my bed, the shredded remains of my second-favorite sleep T-shirt on my lap. How easily he’d ripped it. I gripped the edges of the back of the shirt and pulled. I barely got the cloth to stretch. I had to exert all my strength to get the hem to tear; he’d done it as easily as ripping a sheet of paper. Yet for all his obvious strength, his touch had never been anything less than exquisitely gentle.

He’d given me a name. He’d stopped when he obviously hadn’t wanted to. Part of me wanted to say that it was enough — I could trust him, I could let whatever was going to happen, happen. But another part of me held back. He’d outright told me he was keeping a secret that would change everything. For me, for him, and for us.