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“Did you just say you want to be a Domme?” Adam asked in disbelief. His feet hit the ground at a steady pace as they ran along the paved path in the park.
Of course he knew that couldn’t possibly be what Ashley had said. Not Ash.
“I didn’t say I want to be a Domme,” Ash said, her breathing a bit labored.
He slowed down and she kept pace beside him. Usually she could easily do this pace, but she seemed a little off today. Nervous.
“I said that I’m going to meet with a Dom.”
Adam’s chest tightened. Why would Ashley want to see a Dom? Was she going to get into some kinky sexual thing? His heart thumped louder than the running accounted for.
“The man is only in town for a couple of months on business. Apparently he’s active in the BDSM lifestyle. I heard about him through a friend,” she went on to say. “She said he’s a little intense, but I’ll be in good hands.”
Adam held back a scowl. He didn’t want her in anyone’s hands but his own. Fuck, he should pull her into a sweltering kiss right now, then show her exactly what it would be like to be dominated—by him.
He’d been attracted to Ash for a long time, but he’d met her when she was sixteen and he was in his twenties, and she was his friend’s younger sister, so he’d never pursued a relationship with her. When she’d returned from college looking for a job, he’d hired her at the magazine and they’d become friends. But the fact that he was her boss had kept him from asking her out.
But that didn’t stop him from getting jealous when she was with someone else.
And protective. Her seeing someone who would dominate her didn’t sit well with him.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You told me I could do a special-interest piece for the magazine and I’ve been looking for something different. I thought I’d talk about the popularity of BDSM in romance novels. Discuss what really happens in this type of relationship. And I thought it would be a fun angle to … you know, talk to a real-life Christian Grey about the whole lifestyle. This man is a wealthy guy, owns a huge corporation, and he’s into domination. I think our readers would love it.”
His chest constricted. The guy reminded him of someone from his past. Someone he did not want to think about. He frowned.
* * *
Ashley glanced at her friend Adam. She had bungled this conversation.
Maybe she’d become too relaxed about their friendship versus their work relationship. Would he be more amenable to the idea if she’d pitched it in the office, not running through the park? Or did he really not like the idea?
She really did think it was a great idea that their readers would enjoy. And she was excited about researching it. Her heart pounded at the thought of seeing Darien Gallagher and talking about kinky sexual stuff. It would be strange and awkward, but at the same time exciting.
She hoped she could convince Adam to let her go forward with it.
She gazed at Adam’s profile. His perfect, straight nose, the curve of his full lips, his strong chin. A lock of his chestnut brown hair had fallen on his forehead, as it often did, and he pushed it back. A familiar ache filled her. She’d had a longtime crush on him. Ever since she was a teenager. He was her brother Brad’s hot friend. Of course, he’d paid no attention to her back then. He’d been friendly and polite—and sometimes she would imagine she’d see a spark in his eyes when he glanced her way—but she’d convinced herself that it was just her imagination. Seeing what she wanted to see.
Now, years later, since they’d started working together, they’d become close friends. But that hadn’t stopped the attraction she felt for him from growing.
He slowed his pace, then headed toward an empty bench facing the river. She followed him. He must have noticed her breathing was a little heavy. He always watched out for her like that. That was one of the things she loved about him.
Adam sat down and she sat beside him.
“Don’t you like the idea?”
“Of you going to see some guy who might handcuff you and get rough with you?”
“Just to make it clear. It’s not a sexual thing,” she explained. “It’s just research for an article. Look, I know you worry about me, but I can handle myself and I know he’s safe.”
His piercing brown eyes locked on hers. “How do you know that?”
“I told you. My friend knows him very well.”
“Is this friend Jessica?” he asked.
She raised a brow. “Don’t you trust Jessica’s judgment?”
Her question was an evasive maneuver. Jessica didn’t know Mr. Gallagher very well at all, but she wasn’t going to say too much. Adam had worked for Darien Gallagher on an internship one summer when he was in college and whenever she’d asked him about it afterward, he’d closed up. He avoided talking about the internship or Mr. Gallagher, a mystery that one day she’d like to solve.
But for now, she would not mention his name because she didn’t want Adam to turn down this project.
Adam leaned back on the bench. “I know Jessica looks out for you.”
He stared at the trees across the path from them, clearly thinking. He didn’t seem happy and, other than his protectiveness of her, she wasn’t sure why. He was usually right on board to try something edgy.
She gazed at him with wide eyes. “You said you’d give me a chance to do something new. To broaden my horizons. Please, Adam. Let me do this.”
Copyright © 2015 by Opal Carew