warm against my lips as I nudge her bathrobe off her shoulder with my nose. “Us,” she says, and the simple word sounds like a prayer. “Hmm. What about us?” I pause. Where is she going with this? “The contract.” I stop and stare down into her shrewd gaze. Why is she doing this now? My fingers glide down her cheek. “Well, I think the contract is moot, don’t you?” “Moot?” she says, and her lips soften with the hint of a smile. “Moot.” I mirror her expression. “But you were so keen.” Uncertainty clouds Ana’s eyes. “Well, that was before. Anyway, the rules aren’t moot, they still stand.” I need to know you’re safe. “Before? Before what?” “Before—” Before all this. Before you turned my world upside down, before you sleeping with me. Before you laid your head on my shoulder at the piano. It’s all . . . “More,” I murmur, driving away the now-familiar unease in my gut. “Oh,” she says, and I think she’s pleased. “Besides, we’ve been in the playroom twice now, and you haven’t run screaming for the hills.” “Do you expect me to?” “Nothing you do is expected, Anastasia.” The v between her brows is back. “So, let me be clear. You just want me to follow the rules element of the contract all the time, but not the rest of the contract?” “Except in the playroom. I want you to follow the spirit of the contract in the playroom, and yes, I want you to follow the rules—all the time. Then I’ll know you’re safe. And I’ll be able to have you anytime I wish,” I add flippantly. “And if I break one of the rules?” she asks. “Then I’ll punish you.” “But won’t you need my permission?” “Yes, I will.” “And if I say no?” she persists. Why is she being so willful? “If you say no, you’ll say no. I’ll have to find a way to persuade you.” She should know this. She didn’t let me spank her in the boathouse, and I wanted to. But I got to do it later that evening…with her approval. She stands and walks toward the entrance of the living room, and for a moment I think she’s storming off, but she turns, her expression perplexed. “So the punishment aspect remains.” “Yes, but only if you break the rules.” This is clear to me. Why not to her? “I’ll need to reread them,” she says, suddenly all businesslike. She wants to do this now?