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It doesn’t hurt, she tried to convey. Although she did feel sick to her stomach now.

“I suppose I can’t tell you that you should’ve said something. But you should have. That’s what the safeword was for. You were supposed to snap if it was too much.”

She gestured to the floor behind her but then let her hand fall at her side. There’d be no way to communicate that she’d actually gotten the bruises on the floor. And even if she could say so, she wouldn’t. He could never know what she had done.

Even though she hadn’t had a choice, hadn’t even known it was betrayal at the time, he could never know that his brother had fucked her. She felt sure of it, from the competitive way they treated each other to the possessive way her master looked at her. He wouldn’t have shared her willingly, and he wouldn’t be happy to know it had happened while he slept.

If she wanted to stay here—and oh, she did—then she would have to keep it a secret. Well that wouldn’t be too hard for her, after all. It was his brother Brendan she was worried about.

“I suppose you wouldn’t say it was too much, would you? Wouldn’t think so after what you’ve been through. Those marks on your body…” He looked at the door where his brother had left. “I’m going out for a walk today. I was planning on taking you, but now I don’t know.”

If he left her here she would be at Brendan’s mercy, and surely he would hurt her again, fuck her again. She shook her head, pleading with her eyes.

“I can’t trust you to tell me when something is wrong out there. You’re safer here.”

I’m not, she thought fiercely. I’m not safe here with your brother.

He frowned. “Maybe he’s right about you. About us. I didn’t want to send you off alone with strangers in a uniform. I figured they could do more harm than good, not understanding what you needed. But Brendan’s a Dom too. He can take care of you.”

No. Please no. Brendan scared her but more than that, she was healing under her master’s hand. Already she felt more able to think for herself, and she was terrified to lose it again.

His expression softened. “It won’t be so bad. He always knows the right thing to say.” He gave her an echo of a smile. “Most people prefer him to me anyway.”

Strangely it was his softening that alarm

ed her the most, as if he were apologizing for a decision already made.

“Please.” It was a breath of a sound, and it came from her.

His eyes widened a fraction as her word floated on the air between them. Slowly he leaned back in his chair, like a contented cat. “So, subby, you really do want to stay.”

Chapter Six

Apparently going for a walk included chopping down trees. He was a veritable lumberjack, her master. She found it adorable, although she doubted he would appreciate her sentiment. He wouldn’t know, of course. She hadn’t spoken since that one word in the kitchen.

He hadn’t tried to push her to talk more. He hadn’t even made a big deal out of the fact that she had, just went about his preparations for their walk, asking a couple of yes or no questions to which she nodded or shook her head. A weight had lifted. She knew she could speak. She just didn’t have to.

Ironically, her speaking seemed to have spurred on his own. He had sat her on a rock uphill so that he could measure and touch the trees.

“I don’t do this too often,” he panted, between swinging his ax. “Mostly I have the wood imported. I know that sounds strange, what with all these trees around, but I don’t want to do damage while I’m here. I just take a couple trees for smaller projects. This wood works beautifully for smaller carvings.”

Every thwack of wood resounded around her, through her, creating a strange emphasis to his words. As if there were something important in them—vital.

“The wood I order comes from sustainable farms on the mainland and considering my brother came this way anyway, it wasn’t much trouble for him to include my wood on the way in and my furniture on the way out.”

The tree fell over, swishing through the air and landing with a crash.

“Although now that his business here is over, I guess I’ll need a new plan.”

Suddenly she knew what she needed to ask. “What did he import?”

It was surprising how effortless it was to speak. Her voice sounded low but not hoarse.

He paused then strode quickly up to where she sat. “What did you say?”

She thrilled to see the banked excitement in his eyes, to know that he cared about her and what she had to say, but something heavier weighed on her now. “His shipping business. What does he ship?”

Master cocked his head. “Parts for manufacturing, for building. Once he got to transport a shipload of Maseratis. I think that was the high point. It’s mostly boring stuff. Why do you ask?”

Tags: Skye Warren Dark
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