Probably she was borderline exhausted and just needed to sleep.

You get punchy when you’re too tired, she told herself. Watch it.

“We’re not staying in the guesthouse. We’ll go to my house and you can get your stuff tomorrow,” he said. “We can talk in the car.”

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“I’d rather talk here.” And not just so she could stare at his arms. “I want everything worked out before we head to your place.”

“Why? Because you might change your mind?”

No, she wouldn’t. Even though it wouldn’t be the same as when she wore his collar, she’d still be at his house. That was more than she had two days ago. Already they’d spoken more than they had in the last few years put together. If she went she could still hope that, forced to live under the same roof, he might decide he wanted her back.

“No. I’m not going to change my mind. I just want us both in agreement as to what will and will not happen once I’m at your place.”

“You keep saying that.” He leaned against the countertop. “What are you so worried about?”

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“Before, when I was …” she began. She lost her nerve, then admonished herself. Say it. Just say it. “When I wore your collar, things were different. I was your submissive. I’m not now and I’m not going to act like I am.”

He nodded. “Fair enough. That means the playroom is off-limits. You can stay in the guest room and I’ll be in the master bedroom.”

Her gut twisted. The guest room. Hell, it was going to be nine kinds of odd to be living in Jeff’s house and staying in the guest room. She’d shared his room when she lived with him before. The guest room was for guests.

“I have a trial coming up the end of next week. I’m going to need a lot of time and quiet and privacy. I’ll be working late almost every night. I don’t want you to worry.”

“You know how secluded the cabin is. There’s no one around for miles. That’s part of what makes it so safe. If someone shows up who doesn’t belong, I’ll know.”

Of course she remembered. She remembered everything about his house and the land he’d built it on. Tucked away out of the city, it looked more like a rural hunting lodge than a house just a few miles from one of the state’s largest cities.

She never had to worry about anyone unexpectedly showing up at Jeff’s. He had no nearby neighbors, and the road near his house didn’t lead anywhere else. She remembered all too well how often he’d liked to exploit that fact when she’d worn his collar. The days he’d have her walk around the house naked, including walking out to get the mail once the mailman had left. It’d taken her some time to get used to it, but eventually she’d grown to enjoy it.

Mostly, she’d enjoyed his reaction to her being naked all day long. The way his gaze had followed her wherever she went. The undeniable look of desire, pride, and male satisfaction he had about her. How he’d watch while she went to the mailbox and then take her against the door as soon as she returned.

“Did you hear anything I just said?” he asked.

Shit, no. “Yes.”

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He looked at her in amusement. “What did I say, then?”

“It’s not really fair how you know when I’m lying.” She waited for him to say something, but he just stood and watched her. “No. I don’t know what you were saying. I was too busy remembering other things.”

But he didn’t react to her provocation. “I said, you’ll have plenty of time and privacy to work. I won’t disturb you. I’ll be trying to find out who’s behind this note. But you’re not driving anywhere alone. Either you go with me or you don’t go at all.”

“Absolutely not. There’s no—”

He held a hand up to quiet her. “It’s not negotiable. Anyone could follow you while you were driving, and if you’re going to be working late, that’s even worse. You’re hiring me to keep you safe, remember? My rules.”

Damn it all. Now she would feel like a prisoner with Jeff following her everywhere she went. It would be like her father all over again. But honestly, she asked herself, what did she expect? “I should have gone to someone else,” she grumbled.

“And you know what I would have done if I’d found out.”

He’d have gone ape shit if she’d hired another security person to help her. Now that she thought about it, maybe that would have been the thing to do. But no sooner had the thought crossed her mind than she knew she’d never have done it. Watching a jealous Jeff might be entertaining for a few minutes, but it would have been a childish thing to do, and she didn’t play childish games.

“Bottom line is I want the best,” she said.

“Which is why I’m going to be somewhat of an ass and an overbearing bastard to ensure your safety.”

“Well, at least this way you’ll have an excuse.”

“You came to me, remember? It’s either me or your father.”

Jeff hated her father. She’d never been able to figure out exactly why. Growing up, her father had been okay. He’d gotten along with most of her high school dates. Even in college when she’d invite boys over for a long break, her father had been cordial. But never had he been that way with Jeff. He’d never even pretended. Neither of them had.

“Okay. Fine,” she said. “I’ll let you drive me.”

“Glad you see things my way. I don’t want your father involved either. I’ll have enough shit to put up with if your dad ever finds out I knew you were threatened and didn’t call the police.”

It hit her then why he was willing to take her on.

“You’re doing this to spite my father.”

He didn’t deny it.

“Damn it, Jeff.”

“I won’t say the thought never crossed my mind, but no, that’s not it.”

“Then what is it?”

His expression became pained, and she knew whatever he was getting ready to say would cost him. He wasn’t a man who often admitted his feelings.

“You know damn well it would kill me if anything happened to you, Dena.”

Which was as close to an “I love you” as she was going to get out of him. He’d let it slip the night Daniel collared Julie, but he probably wouldn’t say the words again. Especially with her moving in.

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