Edward Dean, who’d been sitting casually with his legs splayed and his arms behind his head, straightened, pulling himself in and moving his gaze across the chrome and glass of the Santa Monica bar. A nervous sheen of sweat coated his neck and back, and he reached up to shove his hair off his forehead.
Winona, the woman seated in front of him, was completely calm and in control. Her cool-blonde hair was wrapped into a complicated hairstyle that Edward had seen before but never understood. Her gray silk suit was tailored; her delicate shoes the only thing that hinted at her sexuality. But given that they had just spent the last two hours talking about nothing but sex, he was certain she knew her way around a bedroom. And many other places as well.
She took a sip of her white wine then set the glass down gently on the crisp tablecloth before speaking again. “Do you need more time to think things over?”
“No. That’s the problem.” Edward picked up his half-empty bourbon and spun it, watching the golden liquid swirl. “All I do is think about it. Over and over. Nothing changes. And then I think some more.” He took a sip, felt the liquid burn down his throat. “I tried. I can’t change anything. I can’t do anything.”
“You are doing something. You came to me. All I’m going to do is put things in motion. The rest, what happens afterward—” She lifted her palms. “Will be up to you.”
He nodded, but remained silent, looking beyond to watch the cars on Santa Monica Boulevard roll past. March in southern California, gorgeous as always.
“The risks, though. Those are something to consider. Once my man begins nothing can be undone.”
“But she’ll be given a safety word—violet. And she—”
“It’s isn’t the risks to your wife Kelly that I’m talking about now.” Winona leaned forward, her brown eyes clear and focused. “It’s the risk to you.”
Edward set his drink down. “Me? There aren’t any risks for me. There isn’t anything that I can’t handle.”
She slid her notebook toward the center of the table and picked up the slender, silver pen she’d set down after Edward had selected his wife’s safety word. “You need a safety word too.” A small smile lightened her face. “It has to be a flower.” She shrugged apologetically. “I like flowers.”
Edward swallowed hard, reconsidering. The time for thinking had passed. He may have already waited too long. The next step—the only possible step—was action. “I don’t need a safety word.”
Her gaze remained steady. “It’s required.”