"I was developing real feelings for you, something that scared the fuck out of me given my past."

"I don’t understand. We were both falling…" It’s the first time I’ve admitted my true feelings, but something tells me this is no surprise to him.

Colton doesn’t say anything, he just patiently watches me like we have all night to sit here and speak in riddles. Perhaps his just friends speech was only that – a hollow request made only to get me to stay.

"If you want a real shot with me, I need a few things from you," he says.

"Such as?"

"You know I’ve been burned before when it comes to women, and money and trust."

"Yes," I acknowledge.

"Women usually only want me for my money," he adds.

"What does that have to do with me?" I am the furthest thing from a gold digger there is.

"Well, you have to admit the start to our relationship doesn’t exactly instill confidence. You only agreed to go with me that night because I was paying you."

"Yes, but as I got to know you, you know it wasn’t about the money. That money was for Becca. I told you I’ll give you the rest back right now."

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"That’s not what I want." His tone is adamant and I feel like we’re spinning in circles.

"What do you want then?"

"Something much more valuable…" His eyes trace a path along my exposed cleavage, making my nipples harden.

I remain quiet, waiting expectantly and wondering what he has in mind.

"I want to know I can trust you. I need your faith and belief in me that I’ll handle my past."

"You can trust me…"  I start.

"Talk is cheap and I’ve been burned before. What happened with Stella makes it hard for me to believe in women, Sophie. Lack of judgment and one broken marriage under my belt may be understandable, but two? That’s not something I’m willing to risk. Friends is safer right now."

"You don’t trust me?"

He doesn’t respond.

"You’re the one who concealed the truth," I blurt.

"That may be, but you wanted to know how I felt and I’m telling you," he says.

"I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me," I admit. "You have to know that I’m nothing like her, Colton." I hate that one wicked woman has ruined it for the rest of us.

The look he gives me is incredulous. "You’re only in my life because of monetary reasons. I paid you to be here, and you ran out on me as soon as things got tough. What am I supposed to think?" he says, pinning me with a heated glare.

God, he’s right. When I look at my actions through that lens, I can see what he means. I was only here because of the money. As soon as I was confronted with his past, I ran out on him, refusing to listen to a single word.

"I need to be able to trust the woman that I’m with," he adds.

It wrecks me to see our arrangement through his eyes, to know that he viewed me as another woman only interested in his wealth. I stand and fold my arms over my chest. Why I’d ever thought this friends only thing was a good idea, I have no clue. "This isn’t going to work for me. I want you. You want me. Yet you don’t trust women. And I can’t just overlook your marriage. We’re at an impasse."

"So it seems." Colton drums his fingers on his desk.

Standing there in the quiet solitude of his office, I wonder what in the world I’ll do now. I consider packing my bags and going home, but deep down inside, I know that’s not the solution. I’d be doing exactly what Colton expects. Running away. I need to stay and show him there’s a different way. Even if it scares the ever loving crap out of me.

An idea takes hold and I’m unable to shake it away. My mouth starts working before my brain can even catch up with what I’m proposing. "I have moral standards. Ones that dictate I don’t sleep with married men."

He watches me curiously.

I sit down in front of him once again and take a calming breath. "I want to prove to you that you can trust me. That you can put your faith in a woman again."

"How?"

"By putting myself aside and submitting to you like I should have done from the first day you bought me."

Hungry eyes flash on mine. "I don’t understand."

"I’m scared, Colt. Of all of this. My feelings for you, of being hurt, of giving you my virginity. I’m scared you won’t sever ties with Stella. But I have faith in you. This is my way of showing you that I trust you to do the right thing and the best way I can prove to you that I’m not going anywhere is to give myself to you."

"Sophie…" he groans, rubbing a hand through his hair.

"You can have me any way you want me."

"You can’t mean that."

I nod slowly, letting my offer sink in. "Anything you want."

"I want your virginity, sweetness. I want total claim over you. It’s the only way to show me that you’re really here for me."

"But you said friends," I tease, lightly, drawing out the delicious verbal sparring that is so much like foreplay.

"Fuck being friends. I want to be inside you."

"I want that too," I say. "More than anything."

"You sure about that?"

I nod, meeting his dark gaze. "There was a man I met at a bar in Italy, he was attractive and polite and…"