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Branded Sanctuary, Page 45

Joey W. Hill

Page 45



  Im tired of talking right now, she snapped. Either take me home, or get out of my way so I can call a cab.

  * * * * *

  If there was a Guinness Book of World Records for the Most A wkward, Miserable Car Ride in History, Chloe knew this would be right there at the top of the list. Brendan tried to talk to her a couple times, but she simply looked out the window, her arms crossed over her chest, knees drawn up.

  Shed refused to put on her seatbelt. With a sigh, Brendan had reached across her. He probably hadnt noticed how she closed her eyes, tightening into a smaller ball to steel herself against the brush of his body as he pulled the seatbelt over her, guiding it with firm patience to the right position before he snapped it in place.

  A fter that, there was the brief stop at his place. She went in to retrieve her bag. He stood at the door, waiting on her. Because she didnt want him to come into the bedroom, she hurried, stuffing her few items in, and then sped back past him, across the threshold.


  She shook her head, beat him to the car by several moments while he locked his door, came after her. The drive out to her place wasnt short, and she kept her attention turned to her open window, her face in the rushing wind. He may have said something a couple times, but she didnt listen. One part of her wanted him to shout at her, grab her arm, shake her, do something to show it mattered to him, but the other part of her clung to the cocoon of silence, sure that any attempt to strip it away would be more than she could take.

  She didnt think about the darkness that would soon cloak her home, or the remoteness of her place. Hell, if necessary, shed sit on the back porch all night, hidden in a small corner where no ax murderer would think to look for her. He could look for her in all the usual places. Bed, kitchen, even bathroom. But shed be outside, part of the night itself. Empty, not feeling, not thinking, completely transparent. Evil could look right through her, because there was nothing left to take, at least for tonight.

  She wasnt a drama queen. She knew this would pass, because all pain did. But this was one too many right now. If Brendan started to make her feel alive again, like it could be okay, shed grab onto that illusion until she lost herself forever.

  When the Jeep crunched down her driveway, she saw St. Frances sitting on the porch, his eyes glowing in the deepening twilight. Shed had a neighbor checking in on him, giving him food and water, so he looked well fed, only mildly interested in her return. Which she knew would change as soon as he had a person to curl up against in the bed, to give him extra tidbits. Companionship.

  Brendan put the Jeep in park. Im going to come in and check the house for you. Then Ill go.

  Ill wait out here, she said tonelessly. She felt him looking at her for a minute, then he got out, came around. He faked her out, halting his forward progress abruptly and turning back to the open window. Before she could draw back, hed put his hand out, curled it around her neck, tilted her chin up with his thumb.

  Chloe, dont do this. Please talk to me. Ill tell you anything you want to know.

  I dont want to know anything. She pulled away, shook her head. I cant handle knowing, Brendan.

  So tell me what youre thinking, then. Give me something I can work with, Chloe. Let me help make it better. I cant leave you, knowing youre feeling like this. He leaned against the window, so close that if the door hadnt been in the way, their bodies would have brushed. She was cold. She missed his warmth, remembering how theyd arrived at the coffee shop earlier, his arm over her shoulders, hers around his lean waist. Her finger hooked on his belt, hips bumping with that casual intimacy of two people who might already be sleeping together, or just indicating the inevitability of their doing so.

  She stared at his hand, gripping the frame. If she didnt give him something, she knew she couldnt end this, couldnt escape. A nd fortunately or unfortunately, something was bubbling up inside her at his words. I did it in a church once, when I was sixteen, she said at last. Had sex in a park after sundown. Stripped off all my clothes to go skinny dipping. I thought those things made me adventurous. Tolerant. So when Marguerite told me more about her lifestyle

  She curled a lip. God, I hate that word. Its like a choice between Cape Cod or Victorian architecture, living on a six-figure income versus a five-figure one. Its a stupid word.

  Yes, it is, he said cautiously. She glanced at him. He was a good listener. He was. A nd he hadnt lied to her. Though it didnt make it hurt less, it was something. He was worried how she felt. It mattered to him. She mattered to him. Which made it all so confusing, and painful.

  I guess Im realizing that theres a difference between being willingly adventurous and trying to figure out things beyond your normal understanding of the way the world is. No point of reference, right? She suppressed a frustrated sigh. Then theres realizing Im not above jealousy.

  It feelsits a terrible feeling. I dont like it.

  He closed a hand over hers, hard. I didnt want to hurt you, Chloe. A nd I dont know how to tell you not to be jealous, but its different with MistrMarguerite.

  She swallowed a jagged lump. Thats what you prefer to call her, isnt it? Mistress.

  He nodded, uncomfortably. I know you dont want to hear it, but I need to tell you. I could say Ive never had sex with Marguerite. That the only thing shes ever allowed me to give her directly is a kiss. But the things we did at The Zone were sexual, so I guess that doesnt mean much. I did intend to tell you, if we reached this point together. Its just He sighed. Youre right. You may never fully understand the way this works, Chloe, but as far as I can tell, most people never fully understand those they care about. Whats more important is that they love each other, and want to love each other to the very best of their ability.

  She stared down, past her painted toenails. Shed left her shoes off and the canvas sneakers were in the floorboards, her feet braced on the edge of the seat as her legs remained bent against her, a modified fetal ball, instinctive shielding. But he was playing with her fingers, tiny strokes of the knuckles. She couldnt seem to pull her hand back.

  I can tell you that theres a difference between what Ive shared with Marguerite and what I hope to share with you, but I know that would sound like a boatload of crap, like a million other guys have said to justify past relationships. So I will say this. She heard him draw a breath. Marguerite is my Mistress. I love her, Ive served her in the past, and Ill always honor her. Ill never deny how important she is to me.

  A s numb as shed thought shed gotten, each word cut, but then he came to the end of it. Im not in love with her, though. I never have been.

  A nd I expect its obvious that shes not in love with me.

  Chloe raised her chin to look at him. Those eyes, so many shifting shades of gray, green and brown, were holding hers, though his face was strained with the effort, and she registered the tension in his shoulders. He wanted to soothe, to comfort, to physically demonstrate his devotion to her. She couldnt deny her body trembled with a desire for that, but it also had a vengeful need to slice into him.

  Instead, she fought for some sense of stability inside, while the afternoon birds chirped and St. Frances came down to lie on the gravel and begin a thorough bath. You always call Tyler sir. Thats part of it too, isnt it?

  Brendan nodded. She belongs to him. Its a reminder that I respect that bond and will never dishonor it.

  She pressed her lips together. Reaching back to get her tote, she pulled it forward. I need to get out now.

  He opened the door for her, and she slid out. He stood in that opening, but she held the pack defensively between them. BrendanI think youre a He opened the door for her, and she slid out. He stood in that opening, but she held the pack defensively between them. BrendanI think youre a really good person. A nd maybeI dont know if I can do this or not. I just need to think about it, work it out. Okay? So you need to go now.

  Ill call

o. She shook her head, spoke before she lost her nerve. Dont call me and dont come back. Ill work this out. If I thinkI can handle it, Ill call you. Okay?

  The look that came into his eyes made her wonder if her heart had cracked, because pain shot through her chest, so sharp she had to stay very still a moment. She saw resignation. He wouldnt fight her, would accept what she wanted. Hed said that from the beginning, hadnt he? That he was all about doing whatever she wanted. Maybe that was why women went for those pushy, more dominant guys. Because women could be so confused about what they wanted, sometimes it was nice to have a guy who forced the issue and made the decision for her.

  But honestly, she wasnt sure if that approach was what she wanted right now either. Dominant, submissive or none of the above, several hours ago shed had no doubt she wanted this man more than anything. That hadnt changed. She just didnt know if she could handle the pastor hell, the presentthat came with him.

  A ll right. Before he let her by, though, he leaned in. She stiffened, thinking and perhaps hoping he was going to kiss her mouth, but he relieved and disappointed her by kissing her forehead, cupping the back of her skull as he did it. When his hand tightened there, digging into her curls, it brought tears to her eyes. She could feel how hard he was holding back his emotions. Why was he doing so? Why wouldnt he snarl and snap?

  Demand and rage?

  Because that wasnt who or what he was, was it?

  When he spoke, his tone was rough, his lips moving over her skin. Whatever you decide, Chloe, my life is better because of the short time weve had together. A nd I fucking want you with all my heart. So if you change your mind, or even just want to talk some more about this, let me know.

  Im a phone call away.

  Chapter Eighteen

  She hadnt been scheduled to work until after the carnival, so she had two days to stew at home. She thought about quitting. Brendan would have called Marguerite, told her that Chloe knew. Of course he would. That thought alone spiked the ugly ball of anger in her stomach. But what was Brendan and Marguerites relationship now? She and Tyler were obviously bonded, and no matter how willing Tyler was to pleasure two women at once, Chloe didnt need any special intuition to know he wasnt the type to share Marguerite. Period. She pitied the guy who thought otherwise.

  So where did that leave things? She knew she had no point of reference for the kind of relationship that Brendan and Marguerite might have.