“You’re very sure of yourself,” I said, trying to sound stronger than I felt. In truth, the raw sincerity and utter surety in his voice shook me to the core. He believed what he said to be nothing but the unquestionable truth.

“Yes, I am.” Now his voice was a mere breath of heat on the shell of my ear. “I will make sure you beg me for it.”

Holy shit. What was I supposed to say to that? I could barely stand up. The potent mix of emotions this man engendered in me had me trembling, knees knocking. I was turned on, I had to admit. And that scared me. So badly. I didn’t want to want him. I didn’t want to be owned by him. But somehow, with nothing but a few words and touches, he had me aching in ways I’d never thought possible.

“See?” His fingertip traced the apple of my cheek, ran beneath the swell of my lower lip. “Already you begin to understand. You’re turned on, Kyrie. I can smell it on you. Your nostrils are flaring. You’re trembling and blushing. You hate it, though, don’t you?”

I didn’t answer.

“Don’t you? If I ask you a question, I expect an answer, Kyrie.”


“That’s okay. Hate it all you want. Fight it. Try as you might, you can’t help it. I own you, Kyrie St. Claire. And soon you’ll come to accept this.”


“Ah. Rebellion. There’s your spirit. That temper of yours, Kyrie. It’s gotten you in so much trouble, hasn’t it?” He sounded amused. “Mr. Edwards is still recovering, you know. You smashed his nose into smithereens.”

I reeled. “You…you know about that?”


“Of course I know about it. I know everything about you.” He stepped away, his voice slightly distant. I heard the tinkle of glass, of pouring liquid. He took my hand in his, pressed a tumbler into my palm, lifted it to my lips. “Drink.”

I touched the liquid to my lips, tasted the fiery burn of expensive Scotch. “Eeew. No.”

“Drink.” His voice was a whip. “I dislike repeating myself.”

I drank. My esophagus was coated in lava, and then it hit my stomach like a hundredweight of bricks. My blood turned to fire, and my head spun. “God, that’s gross.” But, even as I said it, I felt my body going light, heated by the Scotch and lifted up as if I were a hot-air balloon. I drank again, and it wasn’t as bad.

“Yet you drink again, of your own volition.” I heard a smile in his voice. “You drinking the Scotch is a very apropos metaphor for the way you react to me. You don’t like it at first, but it burns away your resistance, and soon you find yourself going back for more.”

I drank again, a small sip, and the lava on my throat, in my stomach, the fire in my blood, wasn’t so bad. It emboldened me. “You said you don’t expect me to pay you back monetarily. Yet you said you won’t have sex with me unless I ask for it. So what do want from me?”

“Merely yourself. Your utter and immediate obedience in all things. Your life.” I heard him swallow. “And here’s why you’ll find yourself obeying. Beyond the heat in your loins that you feel, and the way you react to the mere sound of my voice…you’ll obey because you know the hold I have on you. I will continue to provide for your mother and brother as long as you obey me. They will be very well cared for, in all things. As will you. The kind of treatment you received on the jet is a mere glimpse of the life I will provide for you.”

“And if I don’t comply with your every whim?”

“I will send you home. You would sign an ironclad nondisclosure agreement, and you’d be free to go.”

“Just like that?” I put all the sarcasm and bitterness I possessed into those three words.

“Just like that.”

“And I wouldn’t have to repay you?”

“No.” He paused for effect. “Except, you wouldn’t receive another dime. And you still have a very long way to go to finish your degree. The jobs you’re trained for right now will never offer the funds necessary for you to take care of your mother and brother. And even if you could stay afloat long enough to finish your degree, and get a job in your field, do you really think a social worker could ever make enough money to pay the kinds of bills you’ve got hanging over your head?”

“I’d make it work.”

“Yes, Kyrie. I do believe you’d kill yourself trying.” He paused to sip his drink again, and I took another drink as well. “You could take that route. And you might be able to make it work. But…your choices are limited. Very limited. How long do you think it’d be before you’d end up in a strip club? Before you’d sell your body? Before you’d start doing what that vile pig Edwards asked of you, simply to keep a job you so desperately need?”

I couldn’t answer. He was all too right. I hung my head in defeat, held out the glass, unable to grip it any longer. He took it from me.

“Exactly.” His voice moved away, and I heard glass on wood as he set my tumbler down. “Or you can stay here with me. Play along with my little game, and have all your bills paid.”

“How is this different from prostitution?” I demanded, my voice shaking. “I’m selling my life, my body, my f**king soul to you, to pay the bills.”

“If you wish to consider it prostitution, then I suppose that case could be made. But it isn’t. Consider it instead to be…commerce.”

“Commerce? A deal?”

“Exactly. A deal. But this is not a sexual deal, Kyrie. I might endeavor to stimulate your senses, to turn you on. I do not deny that I’m attracted to you, and that I have been for a long time. But I am not attempting to coerce you into having sex with me. I will persuade you, one step at a time. And that, Kyrie, is no different from what goes on in bars and clubs every night. No different from what you yourself have engaged in.”

He was near me again, circling me, sipping and speaking. “You go to a bar, you spot a likely young gentleman, attractive, well-dressed, a certain gleam in his eye, a swagger to his gait. You let him strike up a conversation. He buys you a drink or two or three. Maybe you give him your cell phone number, or maybe you simply return with him to his place that very night.

“Or maybe you go on a few dates with him first. You’d flirt, ask a few questions, determine whether or not his personality jives with your own in a satisfactory way—whether the initial attraction remains. Eventually, if all the conditions are met, you’d end up in bed with him. And, perhaps, this would last for a few weeks, or even a few months.”