He quickly cooked breakfast, her favorite. A cream cheese bagel with scrambled eggs topped with cheese and skillet-fried ham all piled on the bagel to make a supreme breakfast.

He made himself one as well even though he wasn’t remotely hungry, but he wanted a semblance of normalcy when he went to get her out of bed. She’d likely resist but it was time for him to take back the reins and right their relationship in the only way he knew how. Reassert his dominance, something he’d failed miserably on for a long damn time. He just hoped to hell he wasn’t too late.

Not wanting the food to chill, he set their plates at the breakfast nook and quickly walked down the hall to the guest bedroom. When he eased the door open, he saw that she was awake but staring dully out the window, her gaze unfocused and tired, deep bruises underneath her eyes.

“Chessy,” he said softly.

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She blinked and turned her gaze to him, obviously surprised to see him standing there.

He walked into the bedroom and over to the bed, sitting on the edge close to where she lay. He trailed one hand through the loose curls that were in disarray over the pillow.

“I’ve made breakfast for us and then we need to talk. Get up. Don’t bother getting dressed. Just come into the kitchen so we can eat.”

He inserted firmness into his tone and her eyes widened at his obvious command.

She started to get up as if on autopilot, used to obeying his orders, but then she hesitated and dropped her gaze, sorrow swamping her features.

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“Chessy, get up,” he said in a more forceful tone. “Breakfast is getting cold.”

When she lifted her head again, there was so much hope in her eyes that it broke his heart. This is what he hadn’t been giving her. His dominance, his love, his absolute adoration of this woman. He could kill himself for causing her one ounce of pain. But all he could do was pick up the pieces and try like hell to put them all back together again.

He held out his hand to help her the rest of the way from bed. She quickly glanced at him, wary, but she hesitantly reached up and slipped her soft hand into his.

Heat immediately scorched up his arm, desire sliding up his spine and back down, spreading rapidly through his balls. His dick hardened to the point of physical pain. Damn it, they still had combustible chemistry. Why hadn’t he been acting on it lately? The few selfish nights of sex where he took but didn’t give back was hardly the lovemaking she deserved.

He watched her closely, observing her body language as she rose from the bed, her hand held tightly in his. As though he were afraid of losing her, wanting to hold on to something tangible and not let her escape.

A strong surge of triumph slammed into his chest when he saw her ni**les tighten through her thin pajama top and her cheeks were flushed with the same answering desire.

He had hope. She hadn’t lost her desire for him. It was a start.

Wordlessly, he led her out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. The words he wanted so badly to say would have to wait. He had a distinct plan. Have breakfast together, regain a sense of normalcy and then he’d lay it out to her. Put himself at her feet and bare his very soul to her.

A small smile escaped her when she saw the plates on the table and realized he’d cooked her favorite. But she didn’t utter a sound as she sat down, her shoulders hunched, her gaze firmly plastered downward. Avoiding his. As if she couldn’t bear to face him yet.

“Eat, baby,” he said quietly as he took his own seat.

Though his words were said softly, there was authority behind them. A command. One of a Dominant to his submissive.

She sent a shy look in his direction, one of uncertainty, and yet hope registered once again on her features. Was she battling with herself over whether to accept his gestures? He hadn’t even begun his line of attack. If she thought he believed that all could be solved by merely a breakfast—her favorite—and a few commanding words here and there, she was mistaken. He well knew the seriousness and the direness of this situation and he was well prepared for all he wanted to say.

Finally she cut into her bagel, taking a forkful and putting it to her mouth. With so much on top, it required a knife and fork to eat.

He dug into his own, swallowing it with difficulty. It was tasteless, stuck in his throat, and he wanted to leave it uneaten, but he could hardly sit there while she ate and not eat himself. He wanted these quiet moments while they were eating to put her more at ease for the ensuing conversation they would have.

She fiddled with her fork and then cut small pieces with her knife, but he could tell her heart wasn’t any more into it than he was.

“Can’t eat, baby?” he asked gently.

She lifted her gaze to his for the first time since they’d begun eating. There was an almost pleading look in her eyes as she shook her head.

“I can’t,” she said in a low voice. “It sits in my stomach like lead.”

“Mine too, my girl. What do you say we toss breakfast and then go into the living room and talk. There’s a hell of a lot I want to say and the waiting is agony.”

She sent him a startled look at that, her lips parting in surprise. Hell, did she honestly think this wasn’t hell for him? That she was the only one suffering?

He rose from the table, pushing back the plate he’d clean up later. He held out his hand as he’d done in the bedroom, waiting for her to take it so they could go into the living room and talk. Finally talk this out. He had a hell of a lot to say and the words were burning his lips, dying to burst free.

When they entered the living room, she started to break free of his hold and head for the fluffy armchair that was her favorite. He tightened his hold on her hand and steered her toward the couch instead. He firmly sat her down at the end so the arm of the couch would support her and she’d be comfortable and then he sat right next to her, their thighs touching, and he turned himself sideways, pulling up one leg onto the couch so he sat facing her profile.

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