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I could barely focus on the rest of the opera, wondering if he’d touch me again, if he’d kiss me again, wondering what else he could possibly do to me. Yet he didn’t. He simply held my hand, his thumb occasionally caressing my knuckles. All through the opera and the car ride home, I half-expected to feel his touch find my core again, but it never came, and I was left off-balance, wanting more, wanting to touch him, to rip the blindfold off and see him, to see if his erection had subsided, wondering what he would do next.

  He held my hand on the elevator ride up to his penthouse, all the way to the door of my rooms, and then he took both of my hands in his, pressing my back to the door.

  I tilted my head up, ready for anything.

  “Good night, Kyrie. ” His lips brushed mine, swift and dry.

  That was it? Make me come in the middle of the opera, then nothing? Just…good night?

  “Good night, Roth. ” I was frustrated, confused.

  His hand left mine, opened my door, and I stepped back, turned around, away from him. He untied my blindfold, yet instead of taking it as he had the last time, he put it in my hands.

  I saw his hands. They were even larger than I’d expected. I placed my palm against his, comparing. The tips of my fingers barely reached the middle of his, so he could fold his fingers over mine. His hands were rough, callused, thick and strong. The nails were cut close, filed into neat, even arcs. Not manicured or buffed, just cared for. He was still, frozen behind me as I held his one large, tanned paw in my smaller hand. I turned his palm to face down. The skin on the back of his hand was leathery, lined.

  “Your hands are rough. ”

  “Yes. ”

  “I was under the impression that you grew up…wealthy. ”

  “I did. ”

  “But yet your hands…. ”

  He didn’t answer right away, but neither did he pull his hand from mine. I couldn’t help slipping my fingers through his. “I grew up very, very wealthy. My father is, even still, one of the wealthiest and most successful businessmen in the world. You wouldn’t have heard of him, because he keeps a low profile, stays out of the news and such. But yes, you’re right, I grew up rich. Spoiled. I never did a thing for myself as a child. My food was cooked for me, brought to me. My bed was made for me. I was driven everywhere by a chauffeur. I had bodyguards and personal attendants, private tutors. I grew up getting whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. ” His voice was so close, pitched to barely a murmur, each word hesitant, as if he couldn’t believe he was saying all this. I didn’t dare breathe for fear he would clam up. “Such was my life until I turned eighteen. I spent a lot of time with my father. He was my hero. I idolized him. I wanted to be like him. I watched everything he did, went to work with him and asked questions and took notes, learned everything I could about business. I was being groomed to be his heir and successor. Or so I thought. Then, on my eighteenth birthday, my father took me to the gates of our estate in rural England, where a brand new BMW M5 was waiting. My father handed me a briefcase, told me to open it. Inside that briefcase was my passport and one hundred thousand British pounds. Also in that briefcase was a Beretta M9, three clips, and a box of ammunition. My father handed me the keys to the car. I will remember his words for the rest of my life. He said, ‘You’re on your own, now, son. That is your inheritance, and it’s all you’ll get from me. Go. Earn your own fortune. You can come back to visit anytime you want. But if you stay longer than a month, I’ll charge you rent, and any money you borrow I will expect to be repaid with interest. I earned what I have with my own two hands, and so will you. Goodbye, and I love you. ’ And then he turned and walked away, closing the gate behind him. ”

  “That’s…kind of cold. I mean, he just…kicked you out, just like that? Cut you off?”

  “Just like that. I had the clothes on my back, the car, and the contents of the suitcase. That’s it. I had friends, of course, places I could go, enough money to buy my own flat or stay in a hotel. But yet, I knew enough to know that a hundred grand would vanish rather quickly if I wasn’t careful. ” Roth pulled his hand away, finally. “The story of how I ended up where I am now is a long one, and an often unpleasant and dark one, and I will not tell it now. ”

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  “Wow, Roth. That’s…crazy. ”

  He didn’t respond. “Yes, I suppose it is, at that. ” He sighed. “You know, what I just told you is more than I’ve ever told anyone. ”

  “I suspected as much. Thanks for telling me. ”

  “Good night, Kyrie. ” I felt him back away, and then he was gone, the door clicking closed behind him.

  And, for the second night, it took me a very long time to fall asleep.

  6

  GIVING IN

  I was a ridiculously sound sleeper. I always had been. My dad used to say that I could sleep through the end of the world. I’d sleep through thunderstorms that shook the whole house, through my alarm clock blaring in my ear. It would take a rough hand shaking me for several minutes before I’d finally wake up, and even then I’d be groggy, disoriented. I drooled when I slept. It was embarrassing. It was part of the reason I’d never lived with a guy, to be totally honest. By drool, I don’t mean a cute little bit at the corner of my mouth. I mean my pillow would be damp when I woke up. It was gross, but I couldn’t help it. And what guy would want to sleep next to a girl who drools a pool of spit all over him and the pillow?

  I never woke up in the middle of the night, not ever, not for anything. Once I fell asleep, I was down until my body was ready to wake up.

  Yet, two days after the visit to the opera, I jerked awake in the middle of the night. I hadn’t seen Roth since the opera, which had made for several very long and very boring days. I woke up, peering at the clock beside me: 2:39 a. m. Why was I awake? My heart was hammering, thudding in my ears. I peered around the room, but all I could see were shadows and vague shapes, faint reflections of deeper shadows from the mirrors in the bathroom.

  My room was almost pitch-black, the only light coming from the clock beside my bed.

  I wasn’t alone. Suddenly and completely, I knew this. “Hello? Roth?”

  “Yes. It’s me. Close your eyes. ” His voice came from the doorway leading to the living room.

  “What are you doing here? It’s the middle of the night. ”

  “Close your eyes, Kyrie. ”

  I did as he instructed. “They’re closed. Not that it makes a difference, this room is so dark. ”

  “Keep them closed. ” I heard his voice moving nearer, heard his feet on the carpeting.

  I felt the bed dip under his weight. My heart began hammering even harder, pounding in my throat. His hand touched my leg, near the knee, moved upward, to my thigh, to my hip. Up my waist. I was covered only by the sheet, wearing a T-shirt and underwear. His hand slid over my breast, cupped it, and then kept moving. He found my face. His thumb brushed my chin, my cheekbone. And then I felt silk pressed to my eyes, and I lifted my head so he could tie the blindfold.

  “I apologize for my absence these last few days, Kyrie. Business called me away. But I’m back now, and I’m going to make up for my departure. ” He pulled the sheet down, tossed it aside. “Put your hands beneath the pillow, under your head. ”

  I slid my hands under the pillow as instructed, and kept my questions to myself. I had a feeling I knew what he was going to do, and I wasn’t about to argue.

  His finger traced my cheekbone once more, brushed a tendril of hair away, then slid down the curve of my throat.

  “Is this shirt important to you?”

  I shook my head, then realized he might not be able to see the gesture. “No. The last one you ripped was, though. ”

  “My apologies, in that case. ” He grasped the neck of my T-shirt in both hands, and I felt his knuckles against my breastbone, felt his hands tense, and then the cotton ripped open from top to bottom. I felt his presence leave the bed, heard a switc