By: Candace Blevins

Customarily, she asked a series of questions to see if the guy was seeing someone, because she never wanted to be the ‘other woman’. Sex with a single guy was fine — no strings, and no one gets hurt. However, the one time she’d discovered someone she’d slept with was in a monogamous relationship it had devastated her...despite the fact she’d asked him beforehand and he’d lied. Promises should be kept, and while she loved having her body used for sex, she never wanted to be used to hurt someone, or break a promise. However, it seemed safe to assume Travis was single.

The backs of his fingers gently touched the side of her face and she turned her head slightly, regarding him with one eye.

His tone serious, he said, “I’m going to ask four or maybe five questions, and I need you to answer honestly. If I’m still invited I’ll come with you no matter your responses, but I must know the answers before I can follow you home.”

“What questions?”

“How were you hurt? I need details.”

She looked back at the steering wheel. “Why is it important?”

“Because I don’t want to do anything close to what he did. Please look at me.”

She shifted sideways and focused on the dash in front of him. “Unless you’re planning to punch me in the face I don’t think there’s a danger of that happening.”

His voice remained kind. Soft. “Is that all he did? Monsters who’ll use their fist on a woman don’t usually stop there. Did he rape you?”

Her head dropped and her gaze fell to the gearshift. She extricated a piece of grit from a seam in the plastic with a fingernail as she said, “I’m not comfortable talking about it. I went home with someone I didn’t know and he hurt me enough to land me in the hospital. We had sex, but it wasn’t rape because I went to his place to fuck. I’m not telling you anything else about it.”

“No means no with me, even if I’ve already been promised sex. If you said no and he did anyway, it was rape — doesn’t matter if you’d said yes earlier. How long ago was this?”

She shrugged without looking up. “Not quite three years, maybe two and a half? I don’t know; it’s not recent. I’m not emotionally scarred or anything.” She flicked her hands, brushing it off. “I made a mistake; it won’t happen again.” It wasn’t rape. She couldn’t deal with it if she labeled it that way. She’d said yes earlier, so it’d been her choice.

“How often do you invite people you just met back to your place?”

“Not as much as you probably think, and I always insist on protection. I haven’t been tested in about four months, but I was clean and I’ve been safe every time since, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

His fingers touched the bottom of her chin, gently lifting her face until her gaze met the warm and confident eyes of the man who had kissed her, not the one she’d had dinner with. “A final question and then I’ll follow you back to your place if I’m still invited. Do you know what a safeword is?”

She shook her head and he nodded without looking pleased or displeased. “Okay then, anything I should know about meeting your housemates?”

It was another question but she didn’t correct him. “Yeah, be nice to Papa Bear or he’ll boot your ass before you get near my room.”

He raised an eyebrow but only said, “There’s a drug store across the street. I need to make a quick stop.”

Normally she’d have said she had condoms, but she wasn’t comfortable sharing that information at the moment so she nodded her assent. He pulled her to him, kissed her lightly on the forehead, and unfolded himself from her car.

She reached for her phone and switched the music to Bohemian Rhapsody before pulling out of her parking spot and waiting for him to follow.

Chapter Three

Cara parked and stepped to the sidewalk to wait for Travis to exit his car. They walked side by side to the porch and as they went through the front door she reached for his hand to lead him through the house, avoiding the den area so she wouldn’t have to make introductions. This felt even more uncomfortable than usual, with him tongue-tied and politely awkward again. She wanted him to have his paws all over her making her wild with desire so she didn’t have time to think about the fact she was about to have sex with someone she didn’t know. This wasn’t working — the kiss had probably been a fluke and this was definitely a mistake.

Papa Bear was sitting on the steps leading to the bedrooms, as she’d known he would, and he stood as they neared. He was only about three inches taller than Travis but easily had a hundred pounds on him. Travis offered his hand, suddenly socially at ease with no sign of awkwardness. “Hello, I’m Travis.”