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Early the next morning, I wake with puffy eyes

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Early the next morning, I wake with puffy eyes. Emotion swells in my chest when scenes from last night invade my brain. I can't stop thinking about how we used to be, and how much we've changed. How Rafa's changed.

Why does he want to torment me? More importantly, why am I saying yes to his offer?

Flinging off the sheet because my skin burns with heat, my heart flutters uncomfortably and I feel like I've downed five cups of espresso.

Will he make love to me like he used to, or will he be more controlled, more practiced, distant? Or is he too bitter? Will we have anything to talk about in between fucking? Have the years apart turned us into different people?

All questions I have to consider. Since we split, I've worked hard to be a force for good in the world. I'd learned to rely on myself for my own happiness.

I'd been a reporter before I took over at my family's paper. I'd interviewed rebel leaders in Central America, seen mass graves after devastating natural disasters—hell, I was the one who'd found my father dead on the floor of his office a year ago. I was also the one who'd screamed in the car as my mother and brother took their final breaths.

And I'd survived it all.

I'd learned to fight for what I believed in, whether it's the paper or my own sanity. Even dating Jared was part of that self-discovery. I'd been attracted to him because of his casual ease and quick wit—and because he was damned pretty. But I hadn't loved Jared with the fervor or fever that I had with Rafael; in the three years I dated Jared, I'd never told him I loved him.

I'd assumed a more tempered relationship was normal, rational, better. So Jared made sense, at the time.

I check my phone, hoping somehow I'd missed a text from him overnight. No messages.


I know one thing: I'm still a slave to my passion for Rafael.

Now that he's back in my life, all of my tidy constructs have dissolved. Normally, I am strong and confident, ready to take on whatever obstacle or challenge with a sarcastic grin. Now, I'm unsure of everything.

He's the man who shared some of my most painful moments. And now he's asking me to be his paid mistress.

I know he doesn't respect that kind of relationship; at least he didn't used to. Maybe the moneyed Miami lifestyle has changed him. That's my biggest worry, that he's turned into a shallow, superficial person I would normally dislike—and one who would use money to prove his point.

Snuggling back into the covers, I will myself back to sleep since it's only six in the morning. A half-hour of fitful sleep leads to me to a dream state in the wan morning light of my bedroom, a faint sheen of perspiration on my skin. My need for Rafa is unbearable, almost as if he's in bed with me, yet slightly out of reach. I imagine how he'll devour my mouth with his kisses, like he used to, in the dead of night. How he'll tell me to get on my hands and knees, then take me from behind, his hand pulling my hair until my scalp sparks with pain and pleasure.

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