I slide the ice slowly back and forth across his pecs, swirling the cube around his nipples as he hisses from the cold. When I reach his abs, I outline each glorious muscle before coloring it in with melting ice. I reveled in each and gorgeous muscle of his body, and reveled in hearing his hisses and groans of pleasure. When I make it to his belly button, however, the ice cube has melted down to only a drop size, as I circle it, flicking my tongue in and out.

With my hands on his hips, I trail down his body, kissing the patch of hair that runs down his lower belly. I kiss across his hip bones, and my tongue glides along his beautiful V. Looking up into his eyes, down on my knees, I twirl my tongue around the tip of his cock.

"You don't have to do this," he breathes out.

"I know. I want to…make love to you with my mouth," I reply.

I slide him all the way down my throat, and he groans loudly as his eyes roll back.
"As long as you're okay with it…"

I slide him torturously slow back out of me. Blaze picks my hair up, holding it up for me in his hand. Slipping him out of my mouth, I say, "You're such a gentleman for holding my hair back."

His eyes blaze with passion, hypnotizingly beautiful. "I was taught to always help a woman out when you can."

I smile, as I slide his penis back inside my mouth, my tongue swirling on the soft skin. Blaze's groans grown louder, his hands around my hair tighten, his other hand holding on to the counter for support. I use a technique that I like to call the 'ice cream cone', where I lick his cock around in circles as if it is a dripping ice cream cone.

When I make my way down to his base, I slide his balls into my mouth, tapping my tongue against them as I suck.

"Holy shit, Victoria!" he shouts, and I can't help but smile knowing that he's enjoying what I'm doing.

I tug on them gently, before letting them slide out of my mouth, sliding down his erection. My hand grips the base of his shaft milking his cock slowly, while my mouth remains sucking on his crown. No man can resist this. I change the tempo, quickening the pace, wanting to bring him over the edge, to tell him in a way that I am too afraid to with words just how much he means to me.

"Victoria, I…" he rasps out, his voice an outrageously low sound, that is all male, and makes me only suck harder and faster as I slide him completely down into my mouth, deep throating him.

He growls loudly, as he explodes in my mouth, and I swallow every ounce of his seed. Blaze's body shakes as he tries to gain control of his muscles, and I can't help revel in the fact that I'm the cause.

I stand up, wiping my mouth clean. Blaze, stilling holding my hair back, kisses me deeply. I wrap my arms around his neck, losing myself in him, his scent, his feel, his taste.

When he finally pulls back, the oversized clock on the wall chimes. I glance over at the clock, wondering what it is with Blaze and large, dinging clocks. He has one in the office too, behind his desk.

"It's six o'clock," he says softly.

I leave his embrace, tiptoeing around the apartment, collecting my clothes. As I dress, I'm dreading what will come next. Blaze slips into a pair of black silk pajama bottoms. Oh, hell. I'm supposed to be able to leave now when he's walking around in those hanging gloriously from his hips? But, my sore, tired body tells me that I have to leave, because it needs to recuperate.

"When you're dressed, please come into the kitchen," he says.

Sliding the tank top over my head, I walk into the room that I think is the kitchen…nope, that's another living room. I continue down the hall, to a room where I see lighting. His kitchen is…I have to stop staring, or I'll try and make love to it. It's every cook's fantasy. Stop staring!

I glance up at him, smiling politely. Okay, I need to keep my eyes on his eyes, because if I go any lower to his naked torso, I really won't be leaving. My body groans in protest at the thought.

He takes his wallet off the table and places the money down on the counter. "Three thousand," he says.

"But, we agreed on two thousand," I say meekly. Why am I arguing if the man wants to give me more money?

He frowns. "Take it and don't argue with me."

As I go to take the money from him, I die a little inside. This was always a business transaction I remind myself. I traded goods for services, money for sex…incredible mind blowing sex. Besides, this isn't even close to my first time. I'm no stranger to the streets or making such business exchanges. So, why does this one hurt so badly?

You can buy Kendall those concert tickets, pay off rent, buy her a new pair of sneakers, ooh, and new nightgowns.

As my hand wraps around the money, he grabs my wrist. I glance up at him in confusion. "I want to meet her," he says. My eyes question him. Blaze glances up at the ceiling for a moment. "Her name is…"He struggles to remember. "Kendall, correct? I want to meet her."
I swallow hard. "I don't think that's such a good idea," I say softly.

"Why not?" he asks, though I see a flash of hurt flitter across his eyes.

I have no idea what to tell him that won't seem like a slap in the face. But, I'm ashamed enough by what I'm doing. I don't need to practically make it a public announcement. And if Kendall is all of a sudden meeting Mr. Townsend, she's smart enough to know something is up. And I don't need her looking too closely. I decide to put it on myself and make myself seem crazy….which is pretty true when it comes to Kendall.

"I am exceptionally protective of her. Aside from me and my girlfriend Andrea, who was there the day she was born, the only other adults she comes into contact with are at her school. Kendall is sensitive to people leaving her because of her parents. So, when people enter her life, it's with the expectation that they'll stay for good," I explain.

His eyes grow soft. "I understand what you're saying. She has abandonment issues. So, how about we all go to dinner Wednesday night?"

I blink. "Did you not understand what I said?"

"I understood perfectly." He is so calm, collected. My head is in a chaotic twist.

"So, why would you think that I'd let you meet her...after what I just said?" I bark.

His lips press into a tight line. "Who said I wanted to leave?"

I feel as if someone pushed me, and I'm suddenly off balance, trying to catch myself.

He takes the money from me, holding it up near my face, shaking it. "I could flush this down the toilet and not even notice it being gone. Giving you this…it feels like I'm insulting you."
Anger courses through me. I grab the cash out of his hand, shoving it into my purse. "If you think that's an insult, then please, insult me more often."

"Whoa, Victoria," he places his hands on my upper arms. "You're misunderstanding me. Let me explain." His eyes are so calm, his voice low without a trace of anger. He rubs my arms up and down, tenderly. "I've spent the last week trying to think of how to tell you this, but I realized being straightforward is probably best." Blaze takes a deep breath. "Victoria, I want more than this. I want more than handing you cash after spending the night with you."

I glance up at him, feeling like someone pushed me again and I'm teetering. "I don't understand."

He caresses my cheek. "I love you." I gasp, and my heart stops beating. "I've been in love with you since the second you walked into my office for your interview. I had no idea what you were even capable of. You were either going to singlehandedly sink my business with incompetence or propel it and help me make millions. But, the job was yours...as was my fate."

I blink, trying to catch my breath. "That is a very reckless business decision."

He frowns. "I agree." There is no hint of sarcasm in his voice. "But, that doesn't make it any less true."

"Blaze," I breathe out his name, still in shock.

He picks up my hand, kissing it, and then places it on his chest over his heart. "If you want to continue in this manner, we will. But, I'm hoping you want more. Please tell me how you feel, Victoria. And no, you are in absolutely no threat of losing your job, so, please don't lie to me in fear."

"Oh, God." My body shakes in excitement, and I think my knees are going to give out. "Take me to bed. Now." He glances at me in confusion. "After what you just said…you need to make love to me right now."

He picks me up, and I wrap my legs around his waist. I touch both of his cheeks, resting my forehead against his. "I've been in love with you since the moment I saw you, too. You're also the reason that I couldn't marry Trent. I knew that if I did, he'd make me quit working. But, the thought of never seeing you again was too painful to bear."

He kisses me hard, overcome with emotion, and the two of us allow our hearts to pour out, holding nothing back as I feel the soft bed come up beneath me. "We're going to talk about Trent…later," he says sternly, trying to catch his breath.

"Later," I reply as my fingertips trail up the muscles in his sculpted back. I don't give a damn about Trent. He was a means to an end. I can't believe Blaze is mine. I want to run around the room screaming in pure joy. I want to shout from the tallest building in New York that Blaze Townsend is mine. Holy Hell. How did I pull this one off? I am one lucky bitch.

Both of us are too exhausted at this point, so Blaze grabs a condom, slipping it on before sliding inside me. His hand travels up my outer thigh, gripping me as he rolled his hips, a slow torturous motion, making love to me lazily. My eyes are closing, and the only thing keeping me awake is the surge of adrenaline I feel at his confession. But, the excitement coursing through my veins is waning, exhaustion taking its place. The feel of his body, solid and warm rocking against me is comforting. His fills me, possessing me with each thrust, letting me know that I am his completely. Blaze's lips meet mine, and I arch my back into his body, the feeling exquisite.

With each roll of our hips, we work to give each other waves of pleasure. His head drops down on mine, our foreheads touching as he makes love to me. I place my hand over his heart and realize that it's beating to the same rhythm as mine. And with each thrust or our hips, we tell each other that we are no longer alone. Our lips smashed together in crushing kisses, our hips rocking as he fills me completely, our hands clasped together above my head. We can't be any closer physically than we are at this moment, and yet it doesn't feel close enough. So, I tell him with my eyes, my lips, and my body that everything I am, I give to him freely. And though, he may not realize it at this moment, no man has ever possessed me this completely- had my mind, my soul, my heart, and my body to do with whatever he willed. Throughout the years, few have had pieces, but no man has ever had it all.

Our bodies slick with sweat, roll off each other easily now as he increases his pace, my hips meeting his thrust for thrust as we catapult ourselves over the edge together. Gasping for breath from the sheer force of my pleasure, Blaze lays down on the bed next to me, sidled up to my body. We lay there together, catching our breaths as we cuddle, Blaze resting his head on my breast.

His fingers trail up my belly. "Victoria, I want to give you things."

I try to focus my attention on what he said, still dazed from my state of pure bliss. "What things?"

"Anything you want, Victoria. I have enough money to buy the world." He smirks, his happiness radiating in his eyes. "And I want to give you the world. So, how about we start with a new apartment? The Townsend building is five blocks from my house and closer to the office. It's also in the best school system in New York." He kisses my lips, "Unless you want Kendall to go to private school. Tell me, and it's done, babe."

I blink, trying to catch my breath. "I can't. That apartment was Kendall's parents. I've left it exactly as it was…since they died. I, I don't know. Plus, my friend, Andrea…she just lost her job at the club. She's moving into the apartment with us next month."

"How about a three bedroom apartment?" he suggests. "You ladies can have your own space. And I know the security there is top notch, so, you'll be safe."
I blink in shock. "What are you suggesting? Blaze, I..." I swallow hard, finding my courage, "I won't share you with her."

He glances at me confused, before I see recognition dawn in his eyes. He shakes his head. "I know she's important to you, which makes her important to me, Victoria. That's the extent of it. You know who is important to me…my family, the Hurleys. And after what you told Ben…" his face grows warm, affectionate. "There isn't anything that I wouldn't do for you, Victoria."

I exhale, relaxing. "I'll talk to Kendall and Andrea about it."

He nods. "Would you like a car? I'm not keen on you taking the bus, standing out in the rain."

"Honestly, no. I don't know how to drive one," I admit.

"Then how about a driver?" he suggests, "I can have a driver hired by tomorrow and a car purchased."

Whoa. "Blaze, let's start with you meeting Kendall and me talking to them about the apartment. You do understand that Kendall and I are a package deal, right?"

"Victoria, when it gets out that you're with me... I need to be able to keep you safe. And you need to let me do that, so, I can have some peace of mind. I can't have you at a bus stop, afraid someone is going to mug you. I…" He yanks his hair in frustration. "I'll never get any work accomplished. I'll worry about you twenty-four, seven. And yes, I understand that you and Kendall are a package. She will never be without anything, Victoria, financially, emotionally." He kisses me long and slow. "What I'm trying to say is that I'm signing on for good."

I smile, kissing his lips as tears of joy flow down my cheeks. He nuzzles his nose into my neck, and my eyes start to close as I drift asleep. "I need to go soon."

"Stay for a few hours," he murmurs. "What time should I set the alarm for?"

"Eleven," I reply before closing my eyes and drifting off to sleep.

The alarm never goes off, but Andrea calls twice, waking me up. I text her that I'm on my way back. Glancing over at him, he looks so beautiful and peaceful sleeping. I brush a lock of hair out of his face before kissing his lips gently. Collecting my clothes, I redress, and in the kitchen, which I can now properly ogle, write him a quick note:

Andrea called. Was worried about me.

Headed home. Love you. Talk to you soon.


Glancing around the brownstone one more time, I slip out the front door.


I walk into Fritzy, my landlord's apartment. He glances up from the couch, watching TV. "Hey! You can't just barge in here like that!"

"Yes, I can. And if you don't like it, don't leave the door unlocked." I walk over to him, shoving my stiletto heel into his crotch. He screams out in pain. "If I ever catch you talking to Kendall again, you will wish you were never born. Do you understand me? You're not good enough to be in the same room as her!"

"Jesus Christ, Victoria! I wasn't gonna hurt the kid! I thought you were just being a bitch and not paying the extra rent! Thought maybe the kid could put some pressure on you. That's all!" he shouts with hands raised in the air.

"No real man frightens a thirteen-year-old girl for three hundred dollars. If I ever see you around her again, I will make you a woman."

"If you don't ease your heel off my dick, you're gonna make me one now!" He shouts out in pain.

"Are you going to bother her again?" I ask.

"Holy shit! No! I won't talk to the kid again!" he shouts.

I ease the pressure of my shoe, taking out the money. I toss the cash into his face. "There. Now you're paid. Go to hell, Fitzy."

As I turn to leave, he says, "You know…you're pretty hot when you get all psycho bitch like that."

I held my middle finger up in the air as I walk out.

Walking into our apartment, I find the old radio playing on the counter as Andrea is blending something pink together. Seeing me, she turns the blender off.

"Where's Kendall?" I ask.

"Sent her to the corner deli for a cup of coffee. I think your coffee machine broke."

"It's not broken, it's just temperamental."
She rolls her eyes at me. "So, how did it go?"

I take the money out of my bag, holding up in both hands nearly four thousand in cash. "Mommy brought home the bacon!" It's a beautiful sight, seeing all that money spread out in my palms.

"Wooh!" she shouts, clapping her hands. I fan myself with the money, smiling. "Good. Now you can get a new coffee maker." I place the money back in my purse. "You've got to be exhausted, though."

I nod, leaning against the doorframe. "I'm okay."

"So, how was working for Trent again?" she asks.

I bite my lower lip. "I only worked for him until midnight."

Andrea's brows scrunched together. "So, where did you go afterwards?"

"Mr. Townsend came into the club…"

Her eyes lit up. "And?"
"And he asked me how much he needed to give me in order me to leave with him. And I told him two grand. So, he made up this excuse that I was in breach of my contract with him by working for Trent, and we left. And…I had sex with him for like six hours straight." A nervous smile breaks out over my face. "And I can hardly walk right now, because I'm so sore."

Her mouth opened wide, staring at me, and I stood there nervous about her reaction. "So, it was good?"

Tears welled in my eyes as I felt overcome, trying to explain how I felt for the last twelve hours, feeling every emotion that has run through my body. "I was on this sex swing, and…"

"He has a sex swing?" she asked in shock.

"Yeah, and it's fabulous, but that's not the point. His floors smelled of Murphy's oil." The tears run down my cheeks now, and I can't see.

Andrea rubs my back as she hugs me tightly. I cry harder. "See, honey, Evalyn is looking out for you. It's a sign." She smiles at me. "I think he's caught feelings."

"Hey, Aunt Vikkie!" Kendall comes bouncing through the door. After she gives Andrea her coffee, she hugs me.

"How was the movie, honey?" I ask, hugging her back.

"I liked it. I enjoyed the director's decision to focus on the loneliness of heroism," she says.

"She loses me when she talks like that," Andrea says, "Here. Have a Smoothie." She places a glass into a giggling Kendall's hand.

"I'm glad you had fun, honey," I say.

The radio starts playing my favorite song, and I turn it up as we all start dancing in the kitchen. I don't need to look at my watch anymore, because I'm home- exactly where I want to be. I realize at that moment, why it would have never worked out between Trent and me. He's not really interested in this part of my life, but for me…this is the best part of it- dancing in my kitchen with my girls.

When the song ends, Andrea slaps my butt hard. "So, what are we doing today?"

I smile. "We're going shopping."

"For what?" Kendall asks as she spins around.

"For new shoes for you, new clothes, some new nightgowns. So, you can shove all your new cool stuff in that girl's face at school," I say triumphantly.

No one will ever going to make fun of Kendall again. I'll make damn sure of it.

Mr. Townsend

I fold and unfold my hands nearly a hundred times, while I keep glancing at my watch. She'll be here in five more minutes. I need to keep my composure. Maybe I'm coming down with something. I clear my throat. It would explain the upset feeling in my stomach. No, I remind myself, that's nerves. Because ever since Victoria left my house, I can't stop thinking about her, even though she hasn't called me or said anything about everything that I said to her. And I bought twenty bottles of Murphy's Oil soap yesterday. The clerk looked at me like I was nuts.

"Hello, Mr. Townsend." I glance up to see Victoria smiling in the doorway. I can't stop myself from smiling, knowing that she's early. But, she looks…

I nod in her direction. "Miss Wright. How are you this morning?"

She smiles brightly, walking in. "I'm good, and you?"

"Much better now," I reply.

She walks into the room, stepping around my desk with two Styrofoam cups in her hand. My heart is pounding out of my chest as I watch her. I swivel my chair towards her, and she stops just before my feet. Leaning over, and giving me ample view of her gorgeous breasts, she whispers, "Thought you might be a little thirty this morning, Mr. Townsend."

With a sultry smile, she places the Styrofoam cup down on the desk. "Black with one sugar. Just the way you like it."

She pays attention to how I make my coffee. Despite her being my secretary, Victoria has never made me a cup of coffee. But, she paid attention…

"Come here," I say, my voice unable to contain my emotion as I pat my thigh.

She sits down in my lap. The second our bodies connect, I hear her sigh as she throws her arms around my neck, hugging me tightly. My hand threads through her hair as I hold her close to me, then pulling her back to kiss her.

= I stare deeply into her eyes. "You weren't at the bus stop this morning."

"Oh," Victoria glances away quickly, "I didn't go to that bus stop this morning. I went to the other one down the block."

Why is she hiding from me? Does she not feel the same about me? Being without speaking to her after everything I said to her yesterday was torturous. But, when I look into her eyes, I see fear. Pressing this right now won't do me any favors.

"I missed you. I'm glad that you're safe." I press my lips to her forehead, running my hand down her side. She sighs, curling her body up into my chest.

"I missed you too, Mr. Townsend."

I lift her chin, kissing her lips gently. "As long as no one's around, I'm Blaze to you."

She kisses me back before wiping her red lipstick off my mouth. "Let me get started."

Victoria walks to her desk, and then whips around towards me. "Where's my rose?"

"It was wilting, I replaced it," I reply.

"I see. Thank you. But, where is the wilted rose?" She asks.

Confused, I pull it out of my trash bin, holding it up for her. Smiling, she runs over and takes it from me. "I don't understand."

She bites her lower lip smiling. When she looks nervous like this it is so endearing. "I want to save it," she admits.

"Why?" I ask, my tone warm in hopes of coaxing information out of her.

"Because it's the first time a man has ever given me flowers," she admits.

I blink in shock. "Ever?"

Victoria nods. "And it's you who gave them to me, so I really want to hold on to it."

I smile. "Then you'll get flowers every day."

She blushes brightly, smiling before walking to her desk. I wait, knowing what's coming. "What's this?"

Victoria holds the box up in the doorway.

"I'm not sure, perhaps you should open it and see," I reply.

She tears the package open as I watch through the doorway. I hear her gasp loudly, and I try to hold back my beaming smile, but I can't.

"Blaze!" she shouts at the door, "What? Why?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Victoria." I'm grinning like an idiot, unable to keep my cool.

She runs into the room and bounces into my seat. "Kissing me all over my face. I love it…I've wanted that purse for months now. How did you, why?"

I kiss her back to stop the questions. "I'm glad you love it. You should check what's inside."

She hops off my lap, running back inside. Victoria reminds me of a girl on Christmas morning.

"What's this?" she asks, holding the key up.

"The key to your new apartment if you want it," I reply calmly.

Her eyes widen. "I didn't have time to talk about that with Kendall and Andrea this weekend."

I hide my disappointment. "Well, when you do, let me know."

I stare at my computer to hide the overwhelming crushing feeling inside that I'm being strung along. It's an uncomfortable feeling, like a boulder is sitting on my chest, ripping me apart. And I realize that I've never felt like this before in my life, not even when my wife took a hundred thousand from our account and vanished without a trace. I have never felt this excruciating pain before. Because Victoria is the only woman that I have truly loved. I loved my wife, but looking back I realize that I was never in love with her, and that is a huge difference. I enjoyed her company, the same as I would a friend, but I never felt consumed. I certainly never felt like I do now: weak, vulnerable, completely at Victoria's mercy. With just one blow, this woman could break me.

I make million dollar deals in the blink of an eye. I have more money than most people can even comprehend. Business has always been easy for me. But, love? Never made any sense. Never felt the pull.

They say that a person has fallen in love…

I understand the saying now, because you do fall. And when you hit the ground, it's agonizing.

Most people would say that I quietly run New York from behind the scenes. If that's true or not is open for debate. I am one of the most post powerful men in America. And Victoria controls me. How's that for brutal truth?

The door opens, and I frown. My first appointment isn't for two more hours.

I hear Victoria gasp. "What are you doing here, Trent?"

I stand up so fast that I knock my chair over. Three things are going on inside me simultaneously. I need to protect Victoria from him. I need to keep her away from him, because she's mine. And I need to protect my home from an intruder, because this office is an extension of my house.

I walk out into the main office, realizing how uncomfortable Victoria looks.

"Hello, Mr. Preston. How are you?" I ask, sliding my hands in my pockets to hide my fists.

He nods in my direction. "Thought I'd come down and talk some business with you. I'm looking to open another club, and everyone says that you're the man to go to for prime building sights."

"I'm flattered," I say, frowning. I glance at Victoria who is still standing there, wide eyed. "Victoria, you didn't tell me that Mr. Preston would be coming by."
She glances at me meekly. "I didn't know he was, sir. If I had, I would have told you."
"I have some time if you'd like to talk, Mr. Preston," I say. Best way to get inside an enemy's head is to do business with him.

He nods, walking over to Victoria behind the desk. Caressing her cheek, he says, "You look good like this, Tori, in professional wear. I'm glad to see you happy here." He kisses her cheek, and she freezes, giving him a smile that doesn't reach her eyes. "I'm glad you decided to at least stay with this and not sleep with men. You're better than your mother, Tori," he murmurs. Victoria pales at his words.

I am there in a heartbeat, bending back his hand off her body. "I have no problem talking business with you, Mr. Preston, but you will take your hands off my girlfriend. Especially inside our office," I say.

His brows lift in surprise. "Is that true?" he asks Victoria.

She swallows hard, looking like she's going to faint, and nods.

He steps back, lifting his hand up in the air. "I apologize. I did not know you were together. I meant no disrespect."

"Would you like to talk business now, Mr. Preston?" I ask, my jaw clenched as I let go of his arm.

He nods, walking into the office with me.

"I, uh, need to go to the lady's room, Mr. Townsend," she says.

I glance up, and Victoria, with purse in hand, is fleeing out of the room.

"Excuse me," I say while setting the password protection on my computer, and run out after her.

In the hallway, I look around trying to find her, but I can't. I run to the women's bathroom at the end of the hall.

"Excuse me ladies, male coming in," I shout out to shrieks and hollers. "Victoria, where are you?" I check down at the shoes in the stalls, knowing what Victoria is wearing. She's not there. "My apologies, ladies," I say before stepping out. I walk into the office and do not find her there.

"Mr. Preston, we have to schedule this for another time," I say.

He stands up alarmed. "Where's Victoria?"

"I don't know, and I don't understand why she reacted that way seeing you. What did that comment mean that Victoria isn't like her mother?"

He shrugs. "Her mom was a hooker. You know, one you'd find under a bridge for twenty bucks an hour."

Fuck. And I just paid her for sex.

"I have to go." I say, all but shoving him out the door, as I lock up the office.

I leave him standing there, confused as I run to the elevator. That asshole is the least of my worries right now.

Twenty minutes later, I show up at her door. "Victoria, please let me in. I know you're in there." I've been pounding for five minutes. "Come on, sweetheart, open the door for me."

Finally, I hear the door lock unlatch, and relief floods me. She opens the door, her eyes red and puffy, wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a tank top. How does she make flannel look sexy? Focus, Blaze.

"Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?" I ask as she trudges through the apartment, plopping down on the couch.

"Just go, Blaze," she replies sadly.

"I'm not going. Not until you tell me what's going on." I rest my hands on my hips, staring at her.

Fresh tears flood her face. "This isn't going to work out."

"Give me one reason why," I reply. I am ready to argue against any fear that she has. I want her too damn badly to give up.

"It's just not going to work. Give up," she says through tears.

"I will not give up! And you still haven't given me a damn reason!" I realize that I'm yelling from my frustration, but the woman is making me sick with worry…and fear.

She stands up, fury rolling off her frame in waves as she tries to push me. "It's not going to work. Give up!"

I grab her arms, yanking them over her head. I push her back onto the couch, holding her arms up. "Give. Me. One. Reason. Why. Not."

Her tears flowed uncontrollably down her face as she fought to catch her breath. "You don't even know who I am."

"I do extensive background searches on my employees. I think I know more than you think," I say, straddling her body. "Is this about your mother's profession?"

Victoria cried harder. "No."

"Then what is this about? Just tell me so I can fix it," I plead.

Didn't she understand? I have enough money to fix nearly everything. And when it comes to her, my will is too strong. I want her more than anything else in the world: air, food, life. Because all of those things only mean that I am merely surviving, no better than a common animal. But, she makes me live. And I can't go back…back to only getting by anymore.

Her eyes go wild, and she jerks her hands around while thrashing her body. I let go of her wrists because I am afraid in my strength that I'll hurt her.

"You can't fix me! I'm too broken!" She screams out before breaking into hysterics again.

"I can fix it. Whatever it is. Just tell me what's wrong." I grab her, holding her tightly to me. Jesus Christ, just let me try and fix whatever is wrong. I can't stand another moment like this- of seeing her in pain. She sobs wildly as I hold her to me, rubbing her back. "Victoria, I will not leave, I will not give up, and I will not stop chasing you. Just please, tell me what the problem is. Because what you're doing to me right now is killing me."

She glances up with her puffy eyes. "I was a hooker." Her words are little more than a whisper. "From age eighteen to twenty-one. Then I slept with Trent and started working at the club. My past is going to come out and ruin you."

"This is what you're so worked up about?" I ask. Part of me wants to scream in anger and frustration. The other part of me feels giddy with happiness. "If that does happen, we'll deal with it together."

"No, you don't under-"

I place my hand over her mouth. "And I've fucked so many women in my life that the number is...high. I've done more drugs than I know the names to. So, neither of us are saints. It still doesn't mean that we're not worthy of this. I can accept anything in your past, if you can accept mine."

Tears keep flowing as she throws her arms around my neck. "I was so afraid that I'd lose you."

I kiss her temple. "I want to know everything, Victoria. I want to be in love with you, not an ideal."

"I was so angry at myself for taking the money sleeping with you, and for even suggesting it at all. I just… I got strapped for cash, and it's the first thing I ran back to. I've tried so hard to be good, to be a person deserving of Kendall. I didn't date, didn't have sex, I shut everyone out to keep Kendall from finding out who I used to be."

"Why all of a sudden did you get strapped for cash?" I ask.

"I made a lot of money bartending, and I saved a lot. So, after Kendall came to me, and I worked for you, I used up the savings little by little each year. It ran out six months ago, and then my rent went up and…I'm five thousand behind on bills. Kendall has no idea. No one does. And then this girl made fun of Kendall at school…and I lost it."

"Why did that upset you so much? A girl making fun of Kendall?" I ask, brushing hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. God, she was so outrageously sexy crying and sniffling.

Through teary eyes she glanced up at me. "Because I was that girl being made fun of because she was poor. Kendall's mother and I became friends in the second grade. The rest of the kids picked on me. Her parents would give me her hand me down clothes. I started staying at her house a lot, so I could just get a meal. Evalyn would yell at anyone who tried to pick on me, and I loved her like a sister. When my father's beatings were bad, I'd crawl through her window at night, and she would take care of my wounds." Victoria wipes away the tears. "I would sleep in her bed those nights with her, the smell of Murphy's Oil soap really strong. I always felt safe with her." And now it all makes sense. "When my parents died, I was sixteen. Evalyn's parents took me in. But, once I turned eighteen, the state stopped paying for my foster care, and they couldn't afford for me to stay."

"So, why didn't you go to college?" I ask.

"The honest answer? I wasn't ready. I wasn't in a healthy mind set. I was just lost. It took me years and years to pull myself together with help from my friends. I almost completely had my shit together, and I applied to college. I was going to start in the fall. And then Evalyn died. And then I found you."

I hold her close as though my arms alone could take away her pain. Stupid I know. But, I wish I could. "Everything is alright. You still haven't told me why we can't be together."

Sniffling loudly, she wipes her nose. "I overreacted, didn't I?"

"A little," I say. A whole fucking lot…And you almost gave me a heart attack, too.

"I'm sorry. I just was thinking about all this yesterday, and then I got sick to my stomach, and then the thought of losing you, and…" She is near hysterics again.

There is only one cure for this problem. I cup her face, kissing her hard. I'll kiss her until she stops crying; I'll make love to her until she begs me not to leave. Victoria throws her arms around me, and I pick her up off the couch. Her thighs hold on to my hips in a vice-like grip as I carry her down the hall. I open one door and find boy band posters. Wrong room. I close the door and open the other one. Walking in, I place her down on the bed, trying to get out of my dress clothes in record speed.

I will fuck her until she is deliriously happy.